UI professor nominates George Ryan for Nobel Peace Prize

By Rosemary Powers

On Jan. 21, University law professor Francis A. Boyle announced that he would be nominating former Illinois Gov. George Ryan for the Nobel Peace Prize, marking the seventh time that the University professor has cast his ballot for the internationally-renowned award.

“I really want to continue Ryan’s moratorium movement, I’ve been a long supporter of abolishing the death penalty, and I feel that continuing his nomination encourages awareness of this issue,” Boyle said.

The former governor, currently serving a six and a half year sentence at an Indiana federal prison because of corruption convictions, emptied Illinois’ death row before leaving office in 2003. Boyle began his support during Ryan’s introduction of the moratorium movement in Illinois in 2000.

“I began by setting up a committee, and because the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually in Norway, I was advised by a Norwegian psychiatrist in an effort to gain the understanding of the Norwegian people,” Boyle said. “During the first nomination, he was one of five finalists to be selected, so he’s near the top of their list.”

Ryan formed a commission to fight the death penalty after a group of journalism students at Northwestern University discovered evidence that death row convict Anthony Porter had been wrongly convicted. However, the Illinois legislature did not recognize the recommendations of Ryan’s commission. This prompted Ryan to release everyone – a total of 167 convicts – off of death row.

Although Boyle is very motivated to spread awareness of the death penalty issue, some students continue to have concerns about the former governor.

“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” said Ken Hanold, junior in LAS. “But I really feel that this nomination brings unnecessary controversy to the faculty level that represents our University.”

In 2008, 37 executions occurred, representing a downward trend that began with Ryan’s death penalty moratorium movement in 2000, Boyle said in a press release.

Kyle Sturm, freshman in LAS and supporter of the abolishing the death penalty, disagreed with the nomination of Ryan.

“Although I believe that the death penalty needs to be abolished, no man that corrupted should receive an award that many work so hard towards,” Sturm said.

Although the debate about the death penalty continues to be a heated issue, the U.S. has not outlawed capital punishment.

“The time has come to abolish the death penalty,” Boyle said. “It’s racial and class-based, and there’s nothing fair about it.”