Illinois is one of the states that has a meaningful life without parole sentence (LWOP). The sentence is for the full natural life of the offender unless the sentence is overturned by a court under appeal, or if a new sentence is given, or if the Governor issues a commutation. There are approximately 1200 “lifers” in the Illinois Department of Corrections, out of the total 48,000 prisoners currently being held.
Information on all of IDOC’s prisoners can be obtained here.
At least four times in recent years legislation has been filed in the Illinois General Assembly to retroactively end life without parole sentences. Worse, victims families of these offenders have not been notified of the pending legislation. Indeed, this more than anything else is what led to the creation of Crime Victims United of Illinois at www.illinoisvictims.org – our concern that victims were not being told important information such as pending legislative action that would retraoctively undo a natural life sentence.
Victims families walk away from an LWOP sentence being told it is permanent. Often they do not register for victim notification or retain records they might need one day in a parole hearing. Illinois, in fact, did away with the parole system in 1978. Now inmates, except for lifers, earn their potential early release with their own good behavior.
We have always said that we know the criminal justice system is flawed. It is run by human beings. Victims know the flaws actually better than most people do. We know sometimes the system gets it wrong. We know there are some innocent people who are incarcerated in Illinois and nationally. There are even more over-sentenced people in prisons all over this nation, and that sometimes justice is not done. We believe that Illinois needs an innocence commission to address these questions.
But more often than not, the criminal justice gets it right. Lifers are often the proverbial “worst of the worst”.
We want the facts of the cases reported because there is a small but well-funded offender advocacy movement in this state working very hard to end LWOP sentences. Some argue that when these offenders get older, they should be released no matter their crime or their sentence.
Crime Victims United of Illinois believes the natural life sentence should be rarely used. Most offenses, even fairly serious ones, can be justly addressed with a term of years that allows the offender to be removed from society for punishment, to get off drugs and to get the help they need, and to “age” into greater ability to control themselves.
But the natural life sentence is an important option that must be preserved for many reasons: public safety, because there are some people are psychopaths who science tells us are always dangerous; legal finality, because murder victims families deserve not to be tortured with regular interaction with the offender for the rest of their lives; punishment, because some crimes are of such a high level of unspeakable evil that the guilty offender has lost the right to walk among us.
We believe the facts speak for themselves. We will post below facts about cases that we hear about of some of the inmates serving LWOP in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
May 4, 2011
CHICAGO — A Madison man who shot and killed his mother, pregnant wife, infant son and two nieces while they slept in a Chicago house a year ago was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday. Cook County Judge James Linn sentenced James Larry, 33, of Madison, to five natural life sentences on murder charges, two 30-year prison sentences for attempted murder charges and two 45-year prison sentences for charges of intentional homicide of an unborn child. Larry pleaded guilty last month. The victims of the April 14, 2010 shootings include Larry’s mother Leona Larry, 57; his son Jihad Larry, 7 months; his wife, Tawanda Thompson, 19, who was pregnant; and his nieces Kelesha Larry, 3, and Keyshai Fields, 16, who also was pregnant. Larry drove from Madison to Chicago with his wife, son, mother and a nephew April 13, 2010, to spend the night. Early the next day, as the family slept, Larry opened fire. He also shot his 13-year-old nephew Demond Larry, who survived. He then kicked in a door of a basement bedroom, pointed his weapon at 35-year-old Torino Hill, who lived in the home but wasn’t related, and pulled the trigger several times. No bullets fired. He later complained, if only he’d had more bullets. Larry then chased his 12-year-old niece Vincenity Corner down the street and fired a shot at her but missed. Corner contacted police. About 90 minutes later, officers arrested Larry, who then gave a videotaped confession and led police to the weapon, prosecutors said. Larry has a long criminal history that includes drug and weapon charges.
Former Death Row Inmates Commuted by Governor Quinn to LWOP
The most severely affected by Governor Quinn’s 2011 commutation of death row inmates to natural life sentences were the families of the victims of the former current death row cases in Illinois. Over 160 inmates were similarly commuted by Governor Ryan in 2003.
There are NO words that can provide comfort to these families. We can only stand with them, and the heroic prosecutors who work hard every single day in Illinois to bring offenders to justice and protect the public, in strong support of the now life without parole sentences being served by the offenders in these cases named below:
COOK COUNTY CASES
Offender Ricardo Harris
Victims: Dipak Patel and Ambalel Patel killed, Injured but survived Christine Chesnick and Helen Chisnick
Offender Teodora Baez
Victims Juan Estrada and Janet Mean
Offender Joseph Bannister
Victim is ex-girlfriend Henrietta Banks
Offender Paul Runge
Victims are Yolanda Gutierrez and her daughter Jessica Muniz
Offender Dion Banks
Victim was carjacking victim Rose Newburn
Offender Rodney Adkins
Victim - Catherine McAvinchey in Oak Park
DUPAGE COUNTY CASES:
Offender Eric Hanson
Victims – his two parents, sister and brother in law. Only family is surviving sister?
Offender Laurence Lovejoy (recently re-sentenced to life)
Victim was Erin Justice, his 16 year old stepdaughter
Offender Brian Nelson
Victims are his former girlfriend, and three other people in Custer Park – we do not have names
Offender Anthony Mertz
Victim in Danville was Shannon McNamara
Offender Andrew Urdiales
Victim for which he is on Death Row is Cassandra Corum from Indiana. There are two other victims he killed in Cook County as well at Wolf Lake – for which he is not on death row, and victims in California who is now trying to extradite him to face the death penalty there.
Offender Cecil Sutherland
Victim was 10 year old girl Amy Schultz
Offender Daniel Ramsey
Victims – two teenage girls, and wounded his former girlfriend – we don’t have names.