After a brief respite because of the COVID pandemic, legislative attention has circled back to the 62 death row inmates living on the backside of Angola.
Since 2000, nine death row inmates have been exonerated and two executed. Partially that’s because a federal court in 2014 barred Louisiana from killing convicts after the state couldn’t obtain the proper drugs for lethal injections.
Nationally, states have been pulling back from capital punishment. In 2000, courts around the country rendered 223 death sentences and by 2021, only 18 were granted, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.
Two bills are proposing that Louisiana abolish the death penalty. Legislators have been down this road before.
In 2017, a bill sponsored by then-Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia and a former State Police superintendent, and then-Rep. Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro and a former sheriff, was defeated by one vote in the Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice. Pylant voted no, saying what he really wanted was to bring attention to how taxpayers were spending $10 million a year on legal costs but executing nobody. A Senate bill by Republican Baton Rouge Sen. Dan Claitor of Baton Rouge, a former prosecutor in New Orleans, advanced out of committee but was shelved when it became clear the House criminal justice panel would vote no.
In 2018, Landry and Claitor pursued the issue again. The Senate bill cleared committee but the House measure did not.
Legislators came closest in 2019. Both bills made it to the floor of their respective chambers. Claitor’s was defeated. Landry pulled his measure after two hours of House debate.
The Louisiana House fell quiet as state lawmakers laid out their views on the death penalty, weighing the brutal crimes of those condemned to …
The argument this time, as it was the last few times, will be about the number of inmates who were exonerated and about cost-effectiveness.
The money would be better spent funding counsel for defendants too poor to hire their own lawyers or to augment funding for early childhood education, said Rep. Kyle M. Green Jr., the Marrero Democrat sponsoring House Bill 106. He also noted that about a third of current lawmakers took office for the first time in 2020 and haven’t had an opportunity to debate the issue.
Prosecutors and law enforcement will counter, as they have in the past, that the prospect of death is a valuable tool used to leverage defendants for pleas and testimony. They also will say capital punishment helps bring closure to the families of murder victims.
But the debate transcends the partisanship that dictates much of what happens in the Legislature. Perhaps religion is why party labels aren’t as important.
Sometimes it seems that capital punishment is an issue that will split the country, and the Louisiana Legislature forever, but though the pros…
Thirty-one percent of Louisiana’s population is Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center.
“A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil,” said Pope John Paul II in 1999.
Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 formalized the position, asking the church to “encourage the political and legislative initiatives” that would eliminate the death penalty. In 2021, Pope Francis said the church would not be “stepping back” from its opposition.
Many Protestants support the death penalty, particularly those among the evangelical congregations who make up about 27% of the state’s 4.7 million residents.
But Sen. Katrina Jackson, the Monroe Democrat behind Senate Bill 294, says many in Protestant churches want to see an end to the death penalty. She expects to see Protestant ministers standing beside Catholic priests when they come to rally at the State Capitol, hopefully on Tuesday, in support of her SB294 and Green’s HB106.
WASHINGTON — State Sen. Katrina Jackson seems like an unlikely general to lead the anti-abortion movement into a U.S. Supreme Court battle.
Jackson has been on the front line of passing anti-abortion laws supported by both Catholics and evangelical Protestants. Doing so, she has worked closely with the Louisiana Family Forum, a Baton Rouge-based coalition of conservative pastors seeking to influence public policy.
The Rev. Gene Mills, who leads the group, offered Jackson little support. “It’s not a person’s right to take another person’s life. The death penalty plays a role in government punishing evil,” Mills said in an interview last week.
Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone, on the other hand, has been quietly phoning GOP legislators.
As a businessman, he said he believes capital punishment isn’t practical financially, adding, “And morally, the Christian side of me says maybe, just maybe, they would repent over time.”