Ryan Appears with Oprah

George Ryan
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Just days after commuting the sentences of 171 men and women from death row, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan talked about his decision on the Oprah Winfrey show. Ryan spoke about why he did it, and about the families he let down.

Gov. Ryan spoke candidly about his decision to commute everyone on Illinois' death row. But he admitted what some victim's families were fearing, that he commuted the sentences of guilty men.

"I granted blanket clemency because that was the only way I could be safe.," Ryan said.

He admitted that he commuted the sentences of many condemned killers, even though most of them were guilty.

"We took guilty people off death row, but people need to know that these people will not get out of jail," said Ryan.

But victim's families don't understand why the governor would commute the sentences of guilty men. They say they were assured by Gov. Ryan that he would look at each case individually. Even though Ryan says he did, he wavered on if each prisoner was guilty.

"I guess their guilty but they are the only one who know. I couldn't cherry pick," Ryan said.

Ryan maintains that he couldn't continue the moratorium on the death penalty until the Illinois Legislature reforms the system, but current Gov. Blagojevich says that he will.

Where the new governor disagrees with Ryan is with the blanket clemency, but several of Illinois' state's attorney's have filed suit with the attorney general's office Wednesday claiming that Gov. Ryan overstepped his authority when he commuted every death row inmate.

Some inmates never signed their application for clemency, which the state's attorney's say violates the governor's power under the Illinois constitution, so victim's families say that they still have some hope that their family's killer will still be executed.