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George Ryan hails death penalty abolition, calling it ‘a long time coming’

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

The death penalty . . .

Former Gov. George Ryan, who fought aggressively to abolish the death penalty after he left office — and who issued the moratorium against state executions when he was governor — dispatched this exclusive message to the Sneed column after Gov. Quinn signed historic legislation ending executions in Illinois.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Ryan, who is now serving a sentence for public corruption at a federal prison in Indiana.

“I’m so glad the legislation has finally passed and Gov. Quinn signed the bill. It’s the result of all the good work of those who fought long and hard in advance of anything I did to help bring this about. I just hope more states join in as well as the federal government.

“We now know with a moral certainty an innocent person will not be put to death in Illinois. I want to thank Gov. Quinn for making the right call.”

Ryan’s son, Homer, who talked to his father Wednesday evening, told Sneed: “I was with my dad the night he made his decision to place a moratorium on executions in Illinois. This was not an easy decision, but it came down simply to killing an innocent person. There are flaws in every system but this is what really bothered him.”

† “I’m sure George was absolutely elated,” said Rob Warden, executive director of Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions. “It was very gracious of Gov. Quinn to give George credit during his press conference,” added Warden.

† A somber note: “But you know . . . even though I’m absolutely elated and never thought I’d see this happen in my lifetime, there is something very surreal about it,” said Warden. “It all happened so quickly and without much [fanfare].”

Tipsville . . .

Mayor Daley may be in the waning days of his administration, but Sneed hears he’s in the process of some serious last-minute travel.

† Translation: Sneed is told when Mayor Daley returns from his trip to China at the end of this month, he plans to head to Colombia a few days later!

† The response: “I’ve heard nothing about this,” said Daley’s press secretary, Jacquelyn Heard.

† The big question: Is it only city business — or a helpful entree into his next business venture? Might Daley be pondering the creation of a superfund composed of foreign money to invest in American infrastructure projects by state and local governments?

Just asking.

Tipsville III . . .

Watch for Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel to announce the appointment of 100 new members to seven new committees on his transition team today.

This & that . . .

. . . from here & there.

† Actor Christopher Walken, who mostly plays bad guys and would like to play more good guys — tells the Big Apple press he “would love to play Santa Claus.” Here’s a litmus test: Walken must be a good guy: He’s been married 41 years!

† Actress Jennifer Hudson, who hails from Chicago and has lost a ton of weight, was spotted spontaneously erupting into the song “Feeling Good” at a D.C. eatery during lunch Wednesday.

Knee spree . . .

. . . and a Bow Wow: Leave it to our irrepressible state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to time her knee replacement surgery to coincide with leg surgery on “Jack,” one of her three adopted dogs. The Scotty came to visit Judy at a Chicago rehab center this weekend “and we hobbled around together,” she told Sneed.

A music note . . .

Singer Phil Collins wants to stop rumors that he’s retiring due to medical reasons or disappointment with his last CD. The actual reason: So he can be a full-time father to his two young sons on a daily basis.

Slapshot . . .

Has President Obama, who hails from Hawaii, ever strapped on a pair of skates?

It’s a safe bet the subject will come up when the Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks visit the White House Friday.

† The kicker: There is only one ice rink in the entire state of Hawaii!

† Legendary Stanley Cup keeper Mike Bolt, who has been to the White House multiple times, tells Sneed he’s seen something the public doesn’t get to see much: Famously stone-faced Secret Service agents actually smiling while getting their pictures taken with the iconic trophy — after it and the trophy’s special trunk were thoroughly probed before being allowed on White House grounds.

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