UPDATE: Bill to Eliminate Death Penalty Dead on Arrival
UPDATE, April 20: The senate bill that would have abolished the death penalty in Louisiana is dead on arrival.
The Senate Judiciary C Committee killed the bill by a 5-1 vote after an hours-long hearing. The only member of the panel to vote "yes" is Sen. Regina Barrow (D-Baton Rouge). The five Republicans on the panel voted "no."
Prior to killing the bill outright, committee members removed a provision in that bill that would have redirected savings realized from the end of the death penalty to early childhood education.
The GOP members of the committee all gave various reasons for the state's need to keep capital punishment.
"It's all we got," said Sen. Beth Mizell (R-Slidell). "Until Christ gives us judgement, it's all we got."
Sen. Bodi White (R-Baton Rouge) says the death penalty should remain as a deterrent to serious crimes like first-degree murder.
"I think they do deserve the possibility of the death penalty in the most heinous circumstances," Sen. White said.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe), says it's past time for the state to abolish the death penalty. She says the same religious beliefs that inspire her to fight against abortion also push her to seek an end to capital punishment. She also says too many innocent men have been put to death because of the state's processes.
"The one thing that we cannot give back when they've been convicted innocently is their life," Sen. Jackson told committee members.
Supporters of the bill filled the conference room. Dead Man Walking author Sister Helen Prejean was among them.
Others, including someone exonerated after being sentenced to death for a murder he didn't commit, testified in favor of the bill.
The death penalty abolition movement is still alive for now. A bill similar to Sen. Jackson's is awaiting a hearing before a House committee.
ORIGINAL STORY, April 19, 2022:
Could the death penalty become a thing of the past in Louisiana? It will if a North Louisiana state senator has her way.
Sen. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) will present Senate Bill 294 before the Senate Judiciary C Committee on Wednesday. That bill would remove from state law the ability for prosecutors to seek capital punishment in first-degree murder, first-degree rape, or treason cases.
Right now, the Louisiana prosecutors may seek the death penalty only in first-degree murder and treason cases. The United States Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the death penalty in aggravated rape cases was unconstitutional.
Under Jackson's bill, anyone convicted of first-degree murder or treason in Louisiana would automatically receive a sentence of life imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit for parole, probation, or the suspension of sentence. However, Sen. Jackson's proposed law would only apply to cases in which the offense took place after August 1, 2022--the date on which the law would take effect if it clears the legislature and is signed by Governor John Bel Edwards.
Sen. Jackson's bill also includes a clause redirecting funds that are used to carry out executions to early childhood education.
"At the end of each fiscal year, the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Louisiana District Attorneys Association, and the Louisiana Public
Defender Board shall provide to the commissioner of administration and to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget a statement of calculated annual savings realized as a result of the elimination of the death penalty," Sen. Jackson's bill reads. "The savings shall be deemed a bona fide obligation of the state and shall be allocated by the state to the Early Childhood Education Fund . . . for the purpose of providing grant funding to child day care centers for literacy funding for two- and three-year-olds. The Department of Education shall promulgate rules and regulations for the administration of this grant."
Louisiana last carried out an execution in 2010, when the state put Gerald Bordelon to death by lethal injection for the kidnapping and murder of his 12-year-old stepdaughter. The state has been unable to carry out any executions because of legal challenges to the state's execution methods and because the state has not been able to obtain the drugs necessary for the procedure from pharmaceutical companies who don't want their products associated with the death penalty.