This book traces a political career of patronage and corruption. George H. Ryan, Illinois governor from 1999 to 2003, became nationally known for two significant and very different reasons. The first governor in the United States to clear out his state's death row and put a moratorium on the death penalty, he was also convicted and sent to prison on corruption charges. ""The Man Who Emptied Death Row: Governor George Ryan and the Politics of Crime"" details the career of a man who tarnished the highest office in Illinois and examines the political history and culture that shaped him.Author James L. Merriner explores the two very different stories of George Ryan: the brave crusader against the death penalty and the petty crook. An extensive analysis of the official record, exclusive interviews and previously undisclosed incidents in Ryan's career expose why the governor pardoned or commuted the sentences of all 171 prisoners on Illinois' death row before leaving office and how he later was convicted of eighteen counts of official corruption.The biography traces Ryan's family history and the Illinois political climate that influenced his development as a politician. Within a culture of patronage and corruption, Ryan was implicated in a nursing home scandal but was still elected lieutenant governor in 1982; a law-enforcement raid on a crooked secretary of state's facility in Libertyville set an ominous precedent; trucking deregulation and immigration helped to form a corrupt system of licensing truckers in Illinois. Although Ryan championed 'good-government' initiatives - organ donations, tougher drunken-driving and lobbyist disclosure laws - he never overcame a reputation as a wheeler-dealer, notes Merriner.The volume, enhanced by nineteen illustrations, goes beyond Ryan's life and career to explore the politics of crime, highlighting the successes and failures of the criminal justice system and suggesting how both white-collar fraud and violent crime shape politics. A fascinating story that reveals much about the way Illinois politics works, ""The Man Who Emptied Death Row"" will help the public determine how history will judge Illinois governor George Ryan.
James L. Merriner covered Chicago and national politics for more than two decades as political editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Atlanta Constitution. He was the James Thurber Journalist in Residence at Ohio State University in 1996. Merriner is coauthor of Against Long Odds: Citizens Who Challenge Congressional Incumbents.