Community gathers on day marking 10 years since last execution in Louisiana

Community gathers on day marking 10 years since last execution in Louisiana
Louisiana State Capitol (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Tuesday, Jan. 7 marks ten years since the last execution in Louisiana.

Church leaders and advocates will gathered Tuesday at the capitol to discuss the topic with the hopes to abolish the policy.

The state says it doesn’t have enough lethal chemicals to execute any of the nearly 70 people on death row. This is because pharmaceutical companies aren’t selling it to them.

People against the death penalty have a question for the state: “If it’s been ten years since the last execution, why do we need it?”

“Death isn’t the only option,” said William Snowden with Vera Institute of Justice. “We know in these capital cases, the jury could return a verdict of life without parole.”

In Louisiana, Gerald Bordelon was the last person killed by lethal injection in 2010. Advocates for change call it a moral dilemma when capital punishment is carried out. They want to revoke the death penalty.

“If we have this notion of an eye for an eye, is that something we really want to promote in the 21st century?” Snowden asked.

Rev. Alexis Anderson, a member of the EBR Parish Prison Reform Coalition, says inmates sitting in jail isn’t a free ride and that’s not a way to escape punishment.

“The one thing we can’t give anybody back is their lives,” he said.

Rev. Anderson adds that members of the community shouldn’t make a quick judgment call.

“I don’t think we as citizens as adequate to the cause of deciding who should live and who should die," he said.

The executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, Loren Lampert, says the death penalty is reserved for the most heinous of crimes, like mass murders or the killing a law enforcement officer. Lampert says there are roughly 25 to 30 active death penalty cases in Louisiana right now.

“Only a few cases of the tens of thousands of cases that come into Louisiana every year, only a small percentage are indicted as capital murder cases,” Lampert said. “And then, an even smaller that are indicted are tried as capital.”

The former prosecutor says the delay over the last 10 years doesn’t mean there won’t be another execution; it’s partly due to not having the right drugs to carry out the execution available and second looks by lawyers to make sure the innocent aren’t killed.

“The very few numbers are a byproduct of that extra scrutiny,” Lampert said. “We don’t take the chance that we would execute an innocent person.”

The system is working, Lampert says, with a more conservative take on death. He says district attorneys operate within the rules of the legislature, but repealing it isn’t the answer.

“It is an effective tool in certain areas,” Lampert said. “To remove the opportunity to seek the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime, most heinous crime by the most heinous perpetrators, it would be a disservice.”

The Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) says pharmaceutical companies can’t get the chemical necessary to complete executions because those companies to do not want their materials used in the injection process. The DOC is only allowed to conduct executions by lethal injection.

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