Nearly all of Louisiana’s death row inmates ask Gov. Edwards for clemency

Nearly all of Louisiana’s death row inmates asked Gov. John Bel Edwards to spare their lives and grant them clemency.
Published: Jun. 13, 2023 at 11:03 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Nearly all of Louisiana’s death row inmates asked Gov. John Bel Edwards to spare their lives and grant them clemency.

The request came Tuesday, June 13, where 51 applications were submitted to the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Committee on Parole to change their punishment from the death penalty to life imprisonment without the chance of parole.

Cecelia Kappel, the executive director of the Louisiana Capital Appeals Project, led a team of attorneys to submit the requests.

This comes after Gov. Edwards took a firm stance against the death penalty and called for lawmakers to abolish it back in April 2023.

“Given the Governor’s comments in his State of the State speech in April, there was an opportunity that we could not turn down,” said Kappel. “These cases don’t involve a situation where these people are ever going to walk free necessarily. They’re going to be put in the general prison population, and our prison system is completely capable of keeping everybody safe.”

However, opponents are starting to push back.

Attorney General and upcoming Louisiana gubernatorial candidate Jeff Landry issued a statement saying that his office will oppose every application.

“I oppose clemency for all of these offenders who were given valid death sentences by juries of their peers. My office will formally oppose their applications,” said Landry.

Those in support of the death penalty in the past have argued that it should remain an option for prosecutors and judges to use, but others believe it’s too expensive, hard to carry out and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Bill Quigley, emeritus professor of law at Loyola University, says the state could save millions if those inmates are taken off death row.

Quigley said the state spent over $200 million over the past 15 years on the state’s death row inmates.

“The cost of being on death row versus being a lifer in prison is dramatic. It’s like six, seven times as expensive. So, in addition to saying we won’t kill these folks based on an imperfect system, Louisiana would save a ton of money by commuting these sentences to life,” said Quigley.

The Capital Appeals Project is now racing against the clock to make this happen.

The Louisiana Board of Pardons & Committee on Parole has to review every application and have an investigation before the governor can make a decision which could take up to a year, but Gov. Edwards only has a few months left in office.

As required by law, the board also has to give 60-day notice to all victims, district attorneys, district court judges and law enforcement entities involved prior to conducting any public hearing,.

Advocates are confident the parole board can make it happen with that short window of time.

“All of it says it’s time to rethink this, let’s get these guys off of Death Row and go about reinvesting that money in something that works for the state of Louisiana,” said Quigley.

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