Tuesday, February 1, 2005
A new documentary film has been released titled "Deadline." A review here says "[t]he film chronicles the time leading up to Governor Ryan’s landmark 2002 blanket commutation. Courtroom footage, interviews with the exonerated, their families, organizations for and against capital punishment, and victims’ families, reveal the miscarriages of justice that the system permitted, but also the devastation that those errors, like the crimes themselves, had left in their wake. It contextualizes the debate in history -- the 1972 the US Supreme Court found capital punishment to be a violation of the 8th Amendment of the Constitution (cruel and unusual punishment), but the ban was short-lived, and capital punishment was resumed in 1977 -- and showed that the Governor, a Republican in favor of the death penalty, truly agonized over the decision before him. He met with groups and legislators for and against capital punishment, and reviewed the cases, all the while aware that opposition to the death penalty was unpopular, a political Achilles’ heel belaying to some a softness of crime.
Like the file folders probably crossing the Governor’s desk at the time, the film shifts straight-forwardly from case to case, in a well-produced and highly articulate display of the multiple sides and situations, from Illinois to the whole country, and from over 30 years ago to the Clinton and Bush administrations. Lobbyists lobbied right up to the eve of Ryan’s decision. A petition arrived from all of the Illinois exonerated -- captured in the film as a solemn but ambitions relay march from the state prison to the Governor’s office, in which one man said that 'only through miracles did the truth emerge' bringing justice to the valley in which they walked -- to a spokesman for the Governor. Ryan also met with victims’ families. As the time went on the media speculated one way then another, as the Governor himself said that his own heart went from pro to against as he deliberated." [Mark Godsey]