29 January 2010

Why George Ryan will not win the Peace Prize

Earlier this month, Francis A. Boyle, professor of International Law and Human Rights at the University of Illinois, nominated former Illinois Governor George Ryan for the Nobel Peace Prize. While Governor, Ryan had declared a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois and commuted all death sentences in that state, literally emptying Illinois' death row. This was Boyle's seventh such nomination.

In a blog post for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, writer Kevin McDermott noted that "Ryan's actions sparked a revival of the national debate over executions, a debate that continues today," and "[i]f capital punishment ultimately falls out of use in the U.S., there's little doubt that Ryan's role will be credited as key."

But then McDermott gives us a reality check, pointing out that Ryan was subsequently convicted of "bribery, fraud, and other crimes of corruption (for which he is currently serving a six-year sentence.)"

Given that the Nobel Committee has rejected Boyle's previous nominations of Ryan, there is no reason to expect that they will think any differently this time. After all, as McDermott points out, "the Nobel Committee has honored imprisoned political leaders before -- but generally not those imprisoned for accepting envelopes full of cash."

That, I suppose, is only fair. And, while Ryan's actions against the death penalty were heroic, it would take many more good deeds on Ryan's part to redeem himself to the point where the cloud of corruption no longer overshadows the good things he did while in office.

Such is how it is with humanity.

But then, of course, no one is perfect.

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