CHICAGO (AP) -- One by one, grieving relatives of murder victims testified last week in clemency hearings being held for nearly all of Illinois' death row inmates.
Yet despite the pain of testifying -- and seemingly never-ending process of trials and appeals -- many family members said they haven't lost their faith in the justice system.
"Is the system perfect? It is not," Mika Moulton told a panel of the Prisoner Review Board, which is hearing the clemency requests.
"But it is the very best and most thorough system possible. We cannot and must not abandon the most fair system we can create simply because we fear there are flaws in our system."
Those flaws prompted Gov. George Ryan to declare a moratorium on executions in January 2000 and call the state's death penalty system "fraught with error" after 13 inmates were found to have been wrongfully convicted and were freed.
Ryan, who is not seeking re-election, has said he might grant a blanket clemency to death row inmates.
"A blanket declaration of clemency is not the answer," Moulton, 41, said. "The crimes were not blanket crimes."
Moulton's son Christopher, 10, was kidnapped in 1995, stabbed more than 50 times and castrated. Timothy Buss was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death.
Buss earlier served time for the murder of another child, which he committed as a juvenile.
Still, Moulton said last week, "I trust fully our judicial system, including the extensive appeals process."
The board will make recommendations on each case to Ryan, which he can accept or ignore.
Samuel Evans, whose 28-year-old daughter, Debra Evans, was murdered in 1995 along with her daughter, 10-year-old Samantha, and 7-year-old son, Joshua, also endorsed the results of the justice system -- and spoke strongly against clemency.
He said he has assured his daughter's two surviving sons -- one of whom was cut from Debra Evans' womb by the killers -- that the convicted killers, Fedell Caffey and Jacqueline Williams, would be executed.
"We have a jury system that tried and convicted Jacqueline Williams," Evans told the panel. "The system is right and gave Jacqueline Williams the death penalty."
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