Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Chicago Rippers

Last to Die

Governor George Ryan
Governor George Ryan
Andrew Kokoraleis was scheduled to be executed on March 17, 1999.   Last-ditch efforts were made on his behalf with then-Illinois Governor George Ryan, and Supreme Court Justice Moses Harrison was persuaded to order a stay of execution, as well as calling for a moratorium on all executions in Illinois. 

Anthony Porter
Anthony Porter
In fact, thanks to a series of crusading articles in the Chicago Tribune about injustices in the legal system, twelve people had recently been exonerated and removed from Illinois's Death Row, which had shaken Governor Ryan.  Some were exonerated by DNA evidence, and a few more were exonerated by revelations of poor handling by the legal system.  One case in particular, that of Anthony Porter, was especially disturbing.  Porter, a black man with an IQ of 51, according to The American Spectator, had been in prison for sixteen years for a double homicide.  After exhausting his appeals, he was awaiting execution on September 23, 1998.  But a Northwestern University professor and a death-penalty abolitionist had turned up exculpatory evidence in the case, so two days before the execution, a stay was ordered.  Then another man confessed to the crime.  That was clear proof that the State of Illinois had prosecuted and imprisoned an innocent man, and was about to put him to death. Ryan pondered the situation but was not yet moved to make a change in the system, especially in light of the fact that the Kokoraleis case, which seemed obviously to deserve the death penalty.

Andrew Kokoraleis
Andrew Kokoraleis
The Illinois State Supreme Court reversed Harrison's stay by a vote of 4-3, says Kelly, and hours before Kokoraleis was to exit the world, Governor Ryan issued a three-page statement to the effect that a jury had decided his fate according to the law of the land.   His attempts to appeal it had been rejected over a span of sixteen years, so Ryan was not about to stand in the way.  Thus, there were no further barriers between this member of the Ripper Crew and his death.

On the morning before his execution, Kokoraleis was convinced that it was not going to happen.   He was flown to a super-maximum security prison in Tamms, IL, and he spent the rest of the day praying and fasting.  He then spoke to a few select friends on the phone, bidding them farewell.  With his brother (not Tommy), he prayed and cried.  Yet Kokoraleis still believed that there would be a last-minute pardon.  Strapped onto the gurney, he offered the Borowski family an apology, said that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, and then received a lethal injection at 12:34 P.M.

By January of 2000, Governor Ryan had placed a thirteenth man on the list of people who should never have been on Death Row, so he announced a moratorium on all executions in the state.  Thus, Andrew Kokoraleis gained the distinction of being the last man executed before the moratorium.  Some commentators believed that Ryan had bided his time in issuing the moratorium until after Kokoraleis was dispatched.  He certainly had his doubts about the system prior to the March execution date, and yet he had waited.  Even so, only anti-capital punishment advocates complained.  Many others acknowledged that justice had been done.  Still, Ryan's decision had the opposite effect on the Spreitzer case.

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