EFFINGHAM, Ill. (WCIA) — The latest push to reinstate the death penalty in Illinois comes from a candidate for Governor who wants the change in place for people who kill police officers. A separate plan would extend the option for killers of all first responders.
Republican Senator Darren Bailey announced Wednesday he’s filed legislation on the topic. The bill allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty for anyone 18 and up who’s been found guilty of first degree murder of a police officer who was on the job. The person also must know or should have known the victim was an officer. Also, defendants in death penalty cases would have access to legal resources in their defense.
If approved, the change would start in 2023. Bailey said at least 27 other states have similar laws. But it will be a tough sell in Democratic-leaning Illinois. For now, the bill has been assigned to a statehouse committee, which is the typical start to the process. Lawmakers are due back in session next month.
Amber Oberheim, the widow of fallen Champaign Police Officer Chris Oberheim, also came out Wednesday in favor of Bailey’s plan.
A separate plan from Republican Senator Neil Anderson would allow the death penalty for killers of any first responder: police officers, firefighters, EMTs/paramedics, ambulance drivers, other medical assistance or first aid personnel, and employees of an institution such as the Department of Corrections or a similar local correctional agency.
Democratic Governor Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty in 2011. His successor, Republican Bruce Rauner, also pushed for the death penalty for killers of police officers. But the plan never passed. Prosecutors can still seek the death penalty in federal cases, but those convicts usually sit on death row for a long time. It’s ultimately up to a judge on whether someone is sentenced to death.