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July 18, 2023

Interesting account of mass clemency efforts on behalf of those on Louisiana's death row

In this post last month, I noted the notable news that almost 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."  Writing here at Bolts, Piper French has an extended follow up reviewing the clemency effort. The piece is fully titled "The Death Penalty on Trial in Louisiana: Petitions filed on behalf of dozens of people on death row are asking the governor for mass clemency, and showcasing the injustices that undergird capital punishment."  I recommend this article in full, and here is an excerpt:

Clemency is often conceived of as a discrete and individual mercy — as an exception, the opposite of policy.  On death row, we picture it as an eleventh-hour decision to spare a person’s life following efforts by advocates to highlight the tragic or unjust circumstances of their case.  But here, the petitioners say that in highlighting people’s stories, they’re not trying to persuade public officials to handpick which of the 57 is most deserving of mercy.

Instead, they’re hoping to showcase the systemic disparities that undergird each of their cases.  What if clemency were a form of policy, they ask — not an individual act, but a collective response to the barrage of injustices that have made the state’s death row a cross-section of its poorest and most marginalized groups?

The U.S. Supreme Court has declared that executing someone with an intellectual disability is unconstitutional, a criterion that fits 40 percent of the people on Louisiana’s death row.  Thirty-nine of the 57 have been diagnosed with brain damage or serious mental illness.  Three quarters are people of color, the vast majority of them Black.  Many allege prosecutorial misconduct and sorely deficient legal support.  “We are executing the most vulnerable people in our population,” said Calvin Duncan, an exoneree who served as a jailhouse lawyer to many on death row for about 19 of the 28 years he spent wrongfully locked up.

Time is running out.  Edwards leaves office in early January, and the frontrunner to succeed him staunchly supports the death penalty.  The next few months will determine whether Edwards translates his philosophical opposition to capital punishment into action by trying to speed up the process and by commuting every death sentence he can before his term is up.

The petitioners must first convince the Louisiana Board of Pardons, which must recommend cases to the governor before he can grant clemency and has already signaled the process may be lengthy, though Edwards, who has appointed the board’s five current members, can ask the board to consider capital cases in a meeting.  His office did not respond to a direct question about whether he would do so.

Not only is this a last-ditch effort to forestall the state executions of these 57 people — it’s also a call for Louisiana to end the use of the death penalty once and for all, in keeping with the growing number of states that have abandoned the practice.  In the last six years, five state legislative attempts to repeal capital punishment have failed.

July 18, 2023 at 02:04 PM | Permalink


funny how Doug never criticizes crap like this:


And as for you defending the DOJ re: Hunter, the Ashley Diary etc.--it's what you don't say.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 18, 2023 5:56:33 PM

federalist, you are welcome to complain about everything you want in these comments. I spend my limited blogging time as I see fit, and I was not even aware of the case you have flagged from back in May. But I am never surprised to see an example of a prosecutor failing to give victims all the information they seek about the criminal justice process. Have you seen Lenore Anderson's recent book on this and related subjects titled "In Their Names: The Untold Story of Victims’ Rights, Mass Incarceration, and the Future of Public Safety"? I recommend it: https://www.amazon.com/Their-Names-Untold-Victims-Incarceration/dp/1620977125#:~:text=In%20In%20Their%20Names%2C%20Lenore,chasm%20that%20exists%20between%20most

Posted by: Doug B | Jul 18, 2023 6:32:03 PM

You like to portray yourself as a centrist kinda guy--but all this leftwing tripe that you promote belies that.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 19, 2023 10:44:23 AM

I share the stuff that I find interesting and sometimes my own thoughts here, federalist, with no real interest in portraying myself with any specific labels. I do use my real name, so people can review my professional background and see other things I have written and said to Congress and the US Sentencing Commission and others in all sorts of setting.

Posted by: Doug B | Jul 19, 2023 1:08:47 PM

federalist, what's the difference between leftwing tripe and rightwing tripe?

Posted by: anon14 | Jul 19, 2023 4:17:03 PM

Federalist, if you don't like what Prof. Berman posts, why don't you start your own blog?

Posted by: anon14 | Jul 19, 2023 4:21:25 PM

anon --

1. "federalist, what's the difference between leftwing tripe and rightwing tripe?"

Academia is overstuffed with the former but features very little of the latter, or much perfectly reasonable conservative argumentation either.

2. "Federalist, if you don't like what Prof. Berman posts, why don't you start your own blog?"

Anon, if you'd like to take responsibility for what you write, why don't you start signing your name?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 20, 2023 1:10:58 AM

So Doug, are you good with Pamela Price's tenure?

Posted by: federalist | Jul 20, 2023 11:31:30 AM

Did not even know her name, federalist, until I read the article you linked. I surmise you may have ample time to follow the work of local DAs around the country, but I can cannot find time to read most of the (often too lengthy) SCOTUS opinions, or (often too lengthy) law review articles in my field, or even to keep up with my email. (Though, I will readily admit, some extracurricular activities in the summer pull my attention away from work: https://www.theopen.com/)

Posted by: Doug B | Jul 20, 2023 12:10:10 PM

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In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB