Capital Punishment Reform in Illinois

by Tom Sullivan

by Frank McGarr

by Michael J. Waller

by Paul Simon

by Tracy Meares

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[launch video] Former US attorney Tom Sullivan begins the panel discussion--named for Hans Ziesel, a prominent University of Chicago scholar who studied capital punishment reform--with an overview of the Commission on Capital Punishment.
(5:55 min)

[launch video] Former federal judge Frank McGarr briefly outlines the 85 recommendations for change in the capital punishment system in Illinois set forth by the Commission, including reducing the number of death eligibility factors and videotaping interrogations of homicide suspects.
(13:10 min)

[launch video] Lake County State's Attorney Michael J. Waller is asked by Sullivan to discuss qualms he has with certain recommendations, such as the recommendation for sequential rather than the traditional non-sequential lineups conducted with eyewitnesses.
(7:09 min)

[launch video] Sullivan elaborates on the Commission's decision to recommend that sequential lineup and photo spread procedures be implemented.
(4:42 min)

[launch video] Former U.S. senator Paul Simon discusses the financial costs of capital punishment and the likelihood that these recommendations will be approved by the Illinois legislature and state legislatures across the country.
(6:14 min)

[launch video] Sullivan comments further on the costs of capital punishment, citing studies that show that the cost of carrying out a death sentence is greater than the cost of incarcerating a prisoner for life.
(3:27 min)

[launch video] Tracy Meares speaks about the ripple effect of legislative change that she anticipates will be generated by the recommendations.
(5:58 min)

[launch video] Sullivan presents closing remarks before opening the floor to questions from the audience. Discussion topics range from the use of post-trial exculpatory evidence to victim's issues.
(11:12 min)

[launch video] The question-and-answer portion of the panel continues, with panelists discussing the prospects of "perfecting" an imperfect system.
(30:05 min)

Relevant Links

Report of the Illinois Governor's Commission on Capital Punishment

Additional information on the Illinois death penalty


Tom Sullivan, who served as a former U.S. attorney, received his LL.B. cum laude from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 1952. He is a lecturer and author on civil and criminal trial and appellate litigation, and is currently a partner at the Jenner & Block law firm.

Frank McGarr

The honorable Frank McGarr served as former chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Judge McGarr graduated cum laude from Loyola in 1942 with a B.A. in philosophy. He went on to serve for three years as a U.S. Navy officer on a destroyer in the Pacific Fleet during World War II. He then returned to Loyola to teach English and law, subsequently served as administrative assistant to Loyola's president until 1952, and earned his J.D. from the Law School.

In 1954, he began a three-year stint teaching at the Loyola University Law School. That same year, he joined the U.S. Attorney's Office, where he served as chief of the Criminal Division, first assistant U.S. Attorney and first assistant Illinois attorney general until his appointment in 1970 as judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. He became the court's chief judge in 1981, and served as its senior judge from 1986 until 1988.

Gov. George Ryan named McGarr as chairman of the 14-member Governor's Commission on Capital Punishment to examine the administration of the death penalty in Illinois. McGarr has served as vice president of the Chicago Crime Commission, president of the Chicago chapter of the Federal Bar Association, and has been appointed special master by the U.S. Supreme Court to adjudicate a boundary dispute between Arizona and California.

McGarr is a member of the Federal Bar Association, Chicago Bar Association and the Society of Trial Lawyers. He has been awarded the Loyola Law Alumni Medal of Excellence, Columbus-Cuneo-Cabrini Medical Center Mother Cabrini Award, St. Ignatius College Preparatory School's Dei Gloriam Award and the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago's Man of the Year Award.

Michael J. Waller

Michael J. Waller is the Lake County State's Attorney in Illinois.

Paul Simon

Paul Simon began what would become a lifelong career in politics in 1954. After winning election to the Illinois House of Representatives, he spent the next 14 years in the state legislature, leaving only to serve a term as lieutenant governor. He then served as U.S. senator for 22 years.

Following his retirement from the U.S. Senate in January 1997, Simon began teaching at Southern Illinois University.

Simon serves as the first holder of the Paul Simon Endowed Chair in Public Policy. He teaches courses in political science, journalism, and history at SIU's Carbondale campus; continues his prolific writings on national policy; and remains deeply involved in public service activities.

Simon also heads the newly created Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University. He has 52 honorary degrees and is the author of 19 books.

Tracy Meares

Tracy Meares is professor of law at the University of Chicago Law School.

COPYRIGHT | This material was drawn from a panel discussion held at the University of Chicago Law School May 6, 2002. Copyright 2002 the University of Chicago.

(c) 2004 The University of Chicago :: Please direct questions or comments to