A former Illinois governor now serving time in prison was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize again this year. (And no, it's not Rod Blagojevich.)
George Ryan, a one-time governor now serving time in a Terre Haute, Ind. prison for corruption, got the nod from an international law professor at the University of Illinois, according to STLtoday.com's Political Fix blog.
A staunch death penalty opponent, Professor Francis A. Boyle nominates Gov. Ryan for the prize every year because of his moratorium on executions in Illinois. "Thanks to Governor George Ryan there have been no . . . executions by the State of Illinois for over a decade," Boyle wrote in an email announcing his most recent nomination.
Ryan's moratorium did indeed lead to the passage of a bill banning the death penalty during the recent lame-duck session of the Illinois legislature. That bill currently sits on Gov. Pat Quinn's desk, as he ponders whether or not to sign.
He also cleared the state's death row on his way out of office, commuting the sentences of 163 men to life in prison and pardoning four.
Boyle continues to nominate Ryan for the prize not only in spite of his 2006 conviction, but in some ways because of it. From a 2006 story on STLtoday.com:
"In my opinion, he's being persecuted for his death penalty work by the pro-death-penalty (U.S.) Justice Department," said [Boyle]. "He would not have been indicted if not for his death penalty work."
Indeed, Boyle goes on to say that the exactly $167,000 in illegal cash Ryan supposedly doled out was in fact a message sent by federal prosecutors to intimidate death penalty opponents. Ryan had freed 167 people from death row. "That was no coincidence," Boyle said. "That was clearly designed to send a message (from prosecutors) to Ryan and the abolition movement: 'This is the price you pay.'" Boyle offered no evidence of the theory at the time.
Regardless of the soundness of Boyle's hypotheses, it seems unlikely that George Ryan will win a Nobel. While one doesn't have to go far back to find a case of a political prisoner winning the Peace Prize (think Liu Xiaobo), the charges against Ryan are, to all appearances, quite convincing. But the ex-governor's anti-death penalty legacy still remains, now clinging to the tip of Governor Quinn's pen.