Illinois Lawmakers Taking Another Look At Capital Punishment

Some state lawmakers are putting focus on a bill to reinstate capital punishment after police say a Canadian man researched Illinois’ death penalty before shooting a Westmont woman this week.

Dmitry Smirnov, 20, of Surrey, British Columbia, was charged with first-degree murder Thursday in the death of 36-year-old Jitka Vesel. (Read the full story.) Police say Smirnov told them he looked up whether Illinois had a death penalty beforehand.

Last month, Illinois became the 16th state to ban the death penalty. Soon after Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law, opposing state lawmakers began a push to reinstate some capital crimes.

One bill, sponsored by state Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-46th, of Elmhurst, would put the reinstatement issue on a statewide ballot in the 2012 election. Another bill would put the the death penalty back on the table for the killing of police officers, trial witnesses and in instances of serial killers or heinous murders of children.

Although under that bill the death penalty would not apply if Smirnov is convicted, state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-24th, of Hinsdale, said this week’s incident “proves the fallacy of the idea that the death penalty is not a deterrent.”

“I continue, along with Rep. Dennis Reboletti, to push forward legislation to reinstate the death penalty for the worst of the worst in Illinois,” Dillard said Friday morning in a conference call with reporters.

Police and prosecutors say Smirnov shot Vesel multiple times in the head and body about 9 p.m.

Wednesday in the parking lot of an Oak Brook office building, 122 W. 22nd St. Vesel was found about 40 minutes later and pronounced dead at the scene. Smirnov turned himself in to Romeoville police several hours later, and police recovered a 40-caliber gun.

DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said Vesel and Smirnov had met on a dating site and had a brief relationship in 2008, but it had soured.

In 2009, she filed a police report saying Smirnov threatened her, but did not file an order of protection, Berlin said.

In a statement videotaped by police, Smirnov indicated that he researched whether Illinois had a death penalty, Berlin said.

“He was aware that the death penalty had recently been abolished. So he knew then he could go through with his plan,” Berlin said during a Thursday press conference. “Clearly, it’s premeditated.”


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