Illinois abolishes death penalty, clears death row

CHRISTOPHER WILLS - Associated Press
FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2011 file photo, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn speaks with reporters in his office at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. On Wednesday, March 9, 2011, Quinn signed legislation abolishing the state's death penalty.  (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)
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FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2011 file photo, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn speaks with reporters in his office at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. On Wednesday, March 9, 2011, Quinn signed legislation abolishing the state's death penalty.

Gov. Pat Quinn's abolishment of the Illinois death penalty has sparked an extraordinary array of emotions among family members of victims' killed by Death Row inmates whose sentences were commuted to life in prison.

A mother who lost her son calls the ban on capital punishment a betrayal. But a father who lost two daughters and a grandson says it was the Christian thing to do.

Illinois will becomes the 16th state without a death penalty when the new law takes effect July 1.

Quinn's decision capped two decades of argument and soul-searching by Illinois leaders over the possibility that the state could execute an innocent person. Twenty people have been freed from death row after evidence surfaced showing they were innocent or were convicted improperly.