> Volume 6 > Number 17


Katy Chevigny
Kirsten Johnson

Steve Mills
Lawrence Hayes
Tom Cross
Donald Cabana
Anthony Amsterdam
George Ryan

Release: N/A



In January 2002, Illinois Gov. George Ryan became the first elected official to upstage Vermontís Howard Dean in enacting an unpopular executive decision and then attempting to explain himself. For once, the religious right was able to put opposition to gay marriage on the backburner so they could show full outrage for Ryanís commutation of all 167 people on death row in the state. Whatís most amazing about this decision is that Ryan, a lame duck Republican, had run for the governorship as a tough on crime, pro-death penalty candidate.

With Ryanís change of face, one would infer that an amazing documentary must be waiting to be made. Even with the release of Deadline, an openly anti-execution treatise on the history of Illinoisí death penalty, that documentary still waits to be made. Ryan, Iíve come to understand after trying to contact him for a lecture, has decided to let his statements at the time stand, and retire from the public life without returning to further explain himself. I respect that, as much as I respect his reasons while I support the death penalty (I do agree, though, that the justice system is in shambles and must be reformed before any execution should take place).

And I recognize that the absence of Ryan from Deadline is a huge setback for directors Katy Chevigny and Kirsten Johnson. However, the film that remains is such a whiny, inconclusive scansion of death penalty history and the discoveries in Illinois, that the affect is lost. There are stories to be told, certainly, but none of the people who get moments in front of the camera are able to convince that their story is one of the important ones. The overall feeling is that Iím watching 48 Hours or Dateline specials on a dozen exonerated prisoners without getting a real feeling for why the assemblage and theatrical release is necessary. I certainly feel for these people who were forced through a life in prison for crimes they didnít commit, but their tales Ė- usually repetitions of previous stories Ė- come more as human rights statements than documentary subjects. Itís like watching Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and Paradise Lost 2 without any of the scenes from the guilty stepfather

©2004, David Perry,, 23 April 2004