Illinois Murder Jurisprudence in the Absence of Capital Punishment

By Santschi, Michael | Ave Maria Law Review, Winter 2015 | Go to article overview

Illinois Murder Jurisprudence in the Absence of Capital Punishment


Santschi, Michael, Ave Maria Law Review


On March 9, 2011, the State of Illinois became the sixteenth state to outlaw capital punishment. (1) Governor Pat Quinn, in commenting on his decision, stated: "[O]ur experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment." (2) His comment is well founded in fact. The reason for this is that Illinois has experienced a capital punishment error rate of 5.9% in the forty-odd years since the Supreme Court in Furman v. Georgia declared that the existing system of capital punishment practices was cruel and unusual for producing arbitrary and capricious results. (3) Currently, Illinois' murder statute combines aspects of the Pennsylvania Approach and the Model Penal Code, dividing murder into degrees and assigning different levels of punishment to each, but making the distinction depend upon aggravating and mitigating factors instead of the traditional premeditation/deliberation analysis. (4) This approach is superior, in many ways, to both the approaches upon which it is based, but it still has its own difficulties. Now, with the death sentence off the table, the complexity of the system has become outdated and counter-productive. Therefore, for the sake of consistency and judicial economy, Illinois should follow the example of other states, such as Texas: abandon the Pennsylvania Approach, and adopt a simplified statutory scheme that is more like the approach promulgated in the Model Penal Code.

This Note will begin with a historical survey of murder jurisprudence. First, it will consider the common law origins of murder as a felony and the way in which the Pennsylvania Approach altered the common law to limit the application of the death penalty by separating criminal homicide into categories and degrees. Next, this Note will delve into the Model Penal Code approach in an effort to show how the Code sought to simplify murder jurisprudence and impose utilitarian values upon the justice system. Then, this Note will turn to the current state of the law in Illinois, showing how Illinois employs some aspects of both the Pennsylvania Approach and the Model Penal Code. Finally, this Note will look at Illinois law in light of the State's recent abolition of the death penalty and consider what, if any, changes ought to be made to Illinois' murder statutes. In particular, this Note will consider whether or not there is any viable justification for maintaining a complicated homicide scheme that divides murder into degrees, and ultimately, this Note will reject the viability of said justifications, concluding that there is no reason to maintain the current, graded scheme of murder in Illinois.

I. MURDER AT COMMON LAW AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PENNSYLVANIA APPROACH

"At common law, murder was defined as the unlawful killing of a human being with 'malice aforethought.'" (5) The actus reus element of common law murder is not very difficult to determine, the question being simply whether the criminal defendant acted in such a way as to cause the death of another. As such, the vast majority of litigation in murder prosecutions focused upon the mens rea requirement. However, deciding whether a person acted with "malice aforethought" proved problematic. Over time, it became an "arbitrary symbol" for judges, creating confusion and unpredictability. (6) Generally speaking, malice aforethought was considered to encompass four distinct states of mind: intent to kill, intent to cause grievous injury, depraved-heart murder, and intent to commit a felony. (7) Therefore, the scope of malice aforethought was extremely broad at common law. Considering the death penalty was mandatory in all cases of common law murder, it was executed far more frequently than it is today. (8)

The broad application of the death penalty at common law proved problematic as social perspectives on capital punishment changed in the eighteenth century. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Illinois Murder Jurisprudence in the Absence of Capital Punishment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.