State Sen. Obama’s top 5 controversial positions on crime

When they were running against one another for a U.S. Senate seat in 2004, Republican Jack Ryan was prepared to hold Illinois state Senator Barack Obama accountable for his “weak” positions on crime. Here are the top 5 controversial ones, according to Ryan’s opposition research.

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  • May 2001 – In what was reportedly a racially motivated vote, Obama opposed a bill that would have made gang violence one of many possible aggravating factors that triggered a death sentence. He said that lawmakers should quit making tougher penalties on the basis of one or two events.
  • March 2001 – Obama voted in favor of a bill that would repeal a defendant’s ability to use intoxication as a legal defense. He tried to weaken the bill first, however, suggesting that it only apply to violent crimes and that it include language to explain that defendants could still show lack of criminal intent.
  • May 1999 – Obama was one of seven Chicago senators to avoid supporting legislation which would allow prior testimony under oath to stand in a case where the witness was later unavailable. The bill was meant to deter the murder of witnesses.
  • April 1999 – Obama questioned the constitutionality of a bill allowing victims of sex crimes to have their case files closed after the assaulter was convicted. The bill passed despite his vote of present.
  • April 1999 – Obama voted against legislation that called for a mandatory two-day jail sentence for domestic batterers because it would fill the court system with offenders looking to avoid jail time.