DANVILLE - The widow of slain Vermilion County Sheriff's Deputy Myron Deckard is devastated by outgoing Gov. George Ryan's decision to commute the sentences of all inmates on Illinois' death row, including the death sentence of the man convicted of killing her husband.
Barbara Deckard said she was upset that Ryan did not consider the sentences on a case-by-case basis.
?This is a travesty of justice,? she said.
Ryan, who leaves the governor's office today, announced Saturday in a speech at Northwestern University's law school that he was commuting the sentences of 167 inmates on death row, because the system is ?haunted by error.?
On Friday, Ryan pardoned four men claiming they had been forced by Chicago police to confess. Those four walked free, but most of the 167 now face life in prison without the chance for parole.
Unlike the four who were pardoned, however, for many of those with commuted sentences there is little question whether they committed the crimes for which they were convicted.
Daniel Raines, the Carlinville man convicted of killing Mr. Deckard, turned himself in and confessed to his crime. Raines, 32, was convicted last November of the June 2001 death of Mr. Deckard, 72.
The deputy was transporting Raines back to Vermilion County on a traffic warrant when Raines shot Mr. Deckard in the head.
During his trial last fall, Raines' attorneys began his defense by saying that Raines did fire the shot that killed Mr. Deckard, but they tried to convince jurors that Raines had never intended to kill the deputy. Jurors convicted Raines of first-degree murder and two days later, on Nov. 14, sentenced him to death.
?This man confessed,? Barbara Deckard said. ?This couldn't be a case of injustice or mistrial. This was wrong. If (Ryan) was going to do this, he should have done it on a case-by-case basis.?
Having just been sentenced to die last November, Raines and two other Illinois convicts were the newest inmates on death row. Their cases had not even started the long appeals process, unlike the case of Charles Silagy, who was one of death row's longest residents.
Silagy was convicted and sentenced to die for stabbing to death his girlfriend Cheryl Jo Block and her roommate Ann Budde Waters on Feb. 14, 1980, in Danville.
Barbara Deckard said she believes attorneys pushed Raines' case through the system quickly ?knowing that Ryan would pull something like this.?
?My husband was an honest cop for 32 years,? she said. ?(Raines) just wasted his life.?
Barbara Deckard, who testified before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board in Raines' clemency hearing last week, said she felt in her heart that he would not be granted clemency.
?He admitted to shooting him,? she said. ?I am just sick.?
Jack Ahola, one of the prosecutors with the Macon County state's attorney's office who prosecuted Raines, also testified at the clemency hearing. He said he was disappointed because it was not what the clemency hearings were meant to be.
?There was no issue that (Raines) had done it,? he said. ?They were just trying to get leniency at the last minute.?
Ryan has said that he explained his decision in a letter to families of victims of the death row inmates, but Deckard said she has not yet received such a letter.
Barbara Deckard plans to write a letter of her own to the new governor, Rod Blagojevich, protesting the commuted sentences. ?Even though I know there's nothing that can be done,? she said.