Landmark Wrongful Conviction Reform Bill Becomes Law

Following investigative expose, BGA policy team, lawmakers and advocates hail Governor Quinn’s approval of SB1006.

By BGA

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Following investigative expose, BGA policy team, lawmakers and advocates hail Governor Quinn’s approval of SB1006. Sen. Kwame Raoul, Rob Warden, Emily Miller, Johnnie Lee Savory, Gov. Quinn, Rep. Mike Zalewski, Rep. Scott Drury, Tom Sullivan
(from left to right)

Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a landmark reform bill backed by the Better Government Association’s policy team, lawmakers and criminal justice advocates. The law is expected to reduce the number of wrongful convictions by requiring electronic recording of interrogations for eight additional felonies.

Before this bill, which the governor signed Aug. 26, recordings were limited to homicide interrogations.

The BGA worked with lawmakers in the House and Senate to pass this important reform bill-- SB1006--on the last day of the spring legislative session.

"This follows nearly two years of tireless advocacy work by the BGA’s policy team, lawmakers, criminal justice advocates and other stakeholders," said Andy Shaw, President & CEO of the BGA.

"This law will go a long way toward protecting the rights of the accused, assisting law enforcement in its pursuit of justice, and insulating the public from the high cost of wrongful convictions, which has already taken a heavy toll in human and financial terms."

The new law stems from the BGA’s June 2011 wrongful convictions investigation, in partnership with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law.

The investigation revealed that more than 80 innocent people spent more than 900 years in prison for violent crimes they didn’t commit, costing taxpayers more than $200 million dollars.

And, perhaps most disturbing: Nearly all of the cases involved police and prosecutorial errors or misconduct, including the kind of forced convictions that this recording bill can drastically reduce.

This past spring, an updated version of the investigation revealed that nearly $40 million more has been paid out since the BGA’s initial investigation, and experts predict the total wrongful conviction payout will top $300 million.

Representatives Scott Drury (D-58) and Mike Zalewski (D- 23) fought hard for this measure in the House, bolstered by a commitment from Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22) and support from the Black Caucus. In the Senate, Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13) led the successful effort to nearly unanimous bi-partisan passage of the bill.

"This legislation proves that stakeholders with vastly different interests can come together to implement meaningful criminal justice reform, " said Emily Miller, BGA policy coordinator. "The sponsors of this bill worked hard to get this done, and the BGA is proud of the role we played in moving it over the finish line."

When this measure goes into effect, nine types of felony interrogations will be electronically recorded, including the Obama-sponsored requirement that homicide interrogations be recorded.

The law requires recording of the following interrogations as of the dates listed:

  • June 2014: Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault; Aggravated Arson
  • June 2015: Criminal high jacking; aggravated kidnapping; home Invasion
  • June 2016: Aggravated battery with a firearm; armed robbery; aggravated criminal sexual assault.

As part of its Rescuing Illinois series, the BGA will continue pursuing wrongful conviction investigations while the BGA policy team remains committed to advocating and supporting appropriate reforms.