Rift In Illinois Death Penalty Felt In Texas - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/13/03 - Tyler

Rift In Illinois Death Penalty Felt In Texas

  "Did you ever take the victim into consideration?" Connie Hilton never asked to be a victim. "Did you ask them how they feel?" Twelve years ago, Hilton lived through a brutal home invasion. Her husband was murdered. She says justice was served; Ricky Lynn Lewis now sits on death row waiting execution for that crime.

After Hilton heard that Illinois death row was cleaned out, and sentences downgraded..."I was angry, " she says. "I'm looking at one man overruling... hard-to-tell-how-many peoples decisions.

Ed Marty agrees. He's a prosecutor for Smith County who's been helping people make those decisions. People who he believes are now being ignored, "Every juror, every witness, every prosecutor, every judge that heard this on appeal, every crime victims family. Every victim is relying on the governor to do his duty!" A duty he says fell short..."He (George Ryan) sacrificed his honor for this...and is not gonna be remembered as anything but a coward because he cannot carry out the law of Illinois."

But it's not so easy in Texas. The Board of Pardons and Parole must make a recommendation to the governor before he's allowed to commute or pardon a death sentence. A system that victims, like Connie, rely on. "The death...it provides one chapter of a book closing," she says.

Marty can only remember a sentence being commuted once in recent Texas history. It happened when then Governor George Bush reviewed the death sentence for Henry Lee Lucas, back in 1998.

Jennifer Brice, Reporting.

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