SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

The Nation

March 10, 2011

Illinois abolishes death penalty, clears death row

(Continued)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. —

Porter had ordered his last meal and even been fitted for burial clothes when, just 48 hours before his execution, lawyers won a stay to study the question of whether he was mentally capable of killing. That provided time for a group of Northwestern University students to gather information proving Porter's innocence.

Ryan, the state's Republican governor at the time, wound up clearing death row in 2003 by commuting 167 death sentences to life in prison and pardoning four people.

Chicago attorney Enrico J. Mirabelli, whose cousin Sheri Coleman and her two young sons were slain in 2009, said he has mixed emotions about Illinois abolishing the death penalty altogether.

"The primitive emotion says an 'eye for an eye,'" Mirabelli said. "But when you think about it, whether he dies or spends life in prison doesn't bring my cousin back."

___

Associated Press writers John O'Connor and Zachary Colman in Springfield, and Deanna Bellandi, Don Babwin, Karen Hawkins and Sophia Tareen in Chicago contributed to this report.

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