Gov. George Ryan's decision to grant clemency to all 167 inmates on death row in Illinois should shake the nation's conscience.
Like many people, he was shocked at news a few years ago that the Illinois judicial system had made so many mistakes in convicting innocent people of capital crimes and meted out the death penalty so unevenly.
His final bold act was based on his findings that the legal system is "flawed" and "unsure." He took action when the state legislature wouldn't pass reforms that supposedly would prevent wrongful executions and make capital punishment fairer.
Governor Ryan's courage and conscience deserves much praise. He will help raise America's standing in countries that outlaw the death penalty and push other states to follow his move.
But his position falls short by not taking a clear stand against the death penalty. He mainly wants fairness and certainty. The act of executing criminals, however, precludes moral change within individuals. Most of all, it coarsens society's core purpose to revere and perpetuate life.