Editorial: Death penalty should be eliminated in Louisiana

Editorial: Death penalty should be eliminated in Louisiana
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There may be plenty of plausible reasons to keep capital punishment in place, but there is a compelling reason to end it: Executing people — even convicted murderers — turns this state and Louisiana’s people into deliberate killers.

That reason alone ought to give state lawmakers cause to consider state Rep. Kyle M. Green Jr.’s House Bill 228. It would end the death penalty in Louisiana, essentially making life in prison the ultimate price for the worst crimes, including first-degree murder.

Green, a Marrero Democrat, contends that capital punishment is inconsistent with Louisiana’s belief that ours is a state where people cherish the sanctity of life.

But as convincing as the moral argument is, it’s not the only reason we think Louisiana’s longstanding allowance of capital punishment as a possible sentence should be rethought. There are strong practical arguments as well.

As Gov. John Bel Edwards noted in his opening address to the legislative session, capital punishment “is difficult to administer — one execution in 20 years. It is extremely expensive — tens of millions more spent prosecuting and defending capital cases, and tens of millions more spent maintaining death row over those same 20 years.”

And all for a punishment that, if carried out, leaves no room for correcting grievous error.

In an interview, Green noted that Louisiana ranks high among states for exoneration of serious criminal convictions; the National Registry of Exonerations says there have been 33 exonerations for murder alone since 1989. Not all were capital cases, but the point remains: Execute an innocent person, and there is no chance to ever make things right.

Why does Louisiana cling to its status as one of two dozen states where execution is permitted?

Some law enforcement hardliners, but not nearly all, say it provides deterrence. That position cannot be affirmed by the results: The state has executed only a few convicted murderers since capital punishment was resumed in the United States in 1976, largely due to the difficulty of acquiring the drugs used for lethal injections. If the punishment is almost never imposed, how can it be a deterrent?

In the Legislature, those who have questioned or opposed the death penalty have included former prosecutor Dan Claitor of Baton Rouge, a Republican; his House ally, former Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, a onetime State Police superintendent; and former Rep. Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro, a former sheriff, who lamented that Louisiana was spending $10 million a year to support and defend the death penalty while executing no one. Several bills to end the practice have made it out of Senate committees in recent years, but none have been approved by either of the Legislature’s houses.

Can Green’s efforts prevail this year? Perhaps.

Edwards is a powerful ally; for the first time, and in his last opportunity to do so, he is endorsing the cause. The governor, who comes from a law enforcement family, correctly points out that Louisiana’s criminal justice system is oftentimes troubled. Over the course of two decades, he told lawmakers, “There have been six exonerations from death row and more than 50 reversals of sentences and/or convictions.”

As with other aspects of criminal justice in our state, those who view the issue as a moral imperative are beginning to coalesce with others who evaluate the issue on more pragmatic grounds in the belief that this draconian punishment provides no social benefit, protects no one and undercuts Louisiana’s belief in the dignity of human life.

Together, they make a powerful case that Louisiana should take capital punishment off the books for good.

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About Mary Weyand 11096 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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