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June 13, 2023

Mass filing from Louisiana death row seeking mass clemency from Louisiana Gov

A helpful reader alerted me to this interesting new story coming from Louisiana, headlined "Almost all Louisiana death row prisoners ask John Bel Edwards to spare their lives." Here are the basics:

Nearly all of the 57 people on Louisiana's death row have asked Gov. John Bel Edwards to spare their lives, a historic request made after Edwards broke his silence on how he views capital punishment and pushed lawmakers to outlaw the practice.

A total of 51 clemency applications filed Tuesday morning with the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Committee on Parole do not ask Edwards to free all of those death row prisoners. Instead, the documents ask him to soften their sentences to life-in-prison — the only commutation available to people sentenced to die.

"Looking at these cases collectively makes it clear that the system is fundamentally broken," said Cecelia Kappel, executive director of the Capital Appeals Project, which led a group of attorneys who represent death row prisoners in filing the requests. "These applications show that the same problems of racial disparity, intellectual disability, severe mental illness, trauma, innocence and others repeat over and over in Louisiana’s death penalty cases."

Edwards granting the requests would mark a historic turn in the way Louisiana regards the death penalty. An avowedly Catholic Democrat from a long line of sheriffs, Edwards has long kept mum about his thoughts on the practice. He only recently came out in full-throated support of abolishing capital punishment, in the waning months of his governorship....

A shortage of lethal injection drugs has put a halt to capital punishment in Louisiana; the state last carried out an execution when Gerald Bordelon was voluntarily put to death in 2010 for the murder of his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Courtney LeBlanc. Prior to Bordelon's execution, the state had not put anyone to death since 2002....

Governors have granted only two clemency requests from death row inmates since Louisiana instated the death penalty in the 1970s. The first was for Ronald Monroe in 1989, whose guilt was doubted by then-Gov. Buddy Roemer. The second was for Herbert Welcome in 2003; Gov. Mike Foster concurred then with the Pardon and Parole Board's recommendation of clemency after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Atkins v. Virginia, which found that executing people with intellectual disabilities violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment....

The clemency applications filed Tuesday with the pardons and parole board detail a range of mental health conditions the death row prisoners have. Among those requesting clemency is Antoinette Frank, the only woman on death row in Louisiana. Attorneys are requesting life sentences even in a few cases where they offered evidence of the prisoner's innocence in the clemency requests.

The fates of the people on death row, housed at the State Penitentiary at Angola, now lie in the hands of Edwards and the board of pardons and parole. The board's members — all of whom are appointed by Edwards — will weigh the applications individually and then pass their recommendations on to the governor.

June 13, 2023 at 03:55 PM | Permalink


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