Louisiana lawmakers reject bill to abolish death penalty, fifth time in six years

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — For the fifth time in six years, Louisiana lawmakers have blocked attempts to abolish the death penalty by the state.

Despite another push from Democratic Gov. John Bel and testimony from supporters from all walks of life — exonerated death row inmates, religious leaders, a judge, family members of murder victims and other members of the public — a GOP-controlled legislative committee voted 11-4 on Wednesday against a bill to repeal the state’s longstanding death penalty.

Louisiana has carried out 28 executions since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The last lethal injection was in January 2010, when the state executed Gerald Bordelon, a convicted sex offender who confessed to strangling his beauty. -12-year-old daughter and waived a call.

Sixty people sit on Louisiana’s death row with no execution date set, according to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

Opponents of the death penalty argue that it should be scrapped due to the cost of executions, racial disparities and religious beliefs. Critics also note that Louisiana has had frequent exemptions. Between 2010 and 2020, 22 death row inmates had those sentences reduced or were exonerated, according to the correctional service.

Among those cleared is Shareef Cousin, who was convicted of murder in New Orleans in 1996 at the age of 16. He became one of the youngest death row inmates in the country at the time. Cousin served several years on Angola’s death row, Louisiana’s notorious state penitentiary. His conviction was later overturned after the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors mishandled Cousin’s case.

“Ask yourself, if one of your children was put in a position where they were accused of something they didn’t do, what would your position be?” Cousin told the Legislative Committee.

Ross Foote, a retired district judge, said he fears there have been cases in which an innocent person has been wrongfully sentenced to death and executed.

“You can have miscarriages of justice and the finality of execution sends shivers down my spine,” he told lawmakers.

Abolition of the death penalty in Louisiana was a new priority this legislative session for Edwards, who cannot run for office this year due to term limits.

Edwards recently said the penalty is “inconsistent with Louisiana’s pro-life values ​​because it literally promotes a culture of death,” referring to the fact that the state has a near-total ban on abortion.

Opponents of the bill have argued for justice for families of victims who believe it is the appropriate punishment for certain crimes. Critics of the stalled executions have described prosecutors frustrated with the lengthy legal battles surrounding the pursuit of a successful death sentence.

Twenty-seven states apply the death penalty and 18 inmates were executed last year across the country, according to the Washington, DC-based Death Penalty Information Center.

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