Committee Votes 4 to 1 in Favor of Ending Death Penalty

Earlier today (April 10), Louisiana’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4 to 1 to repeal the state’s death penalty and replace it with a life sentence. This is the second year in row that a bipartisan bill to replace Louisiana’s death penalty has been passed out of committee. The House version of the bill (HB 162) is tentatively scheduled to be heard by the Administration of Justice Committee tomorrow (April 11).

After the vote, Michael Cahoon of LA Repeal said, “I am heartened to see our lawmakers recognize just how flawed and unnecessary Louisiana’s death penalty is. It is error-prone, costly, and unevenly applied.”

Louisiana’s death penalty has a troubled history. A 2016 study published by the Southern University Law Center Journal of Race, Gender, and Poverty found that 82% of the state’s resolved death penalty cases have been reversed. The uncertainty of the long death penalty process causes additional harm to family members of murder victims.

One out of every 15 resolved cases ended in exoneration. Louisiana has the highest rate of per capita death row exonerations in the nation with a total of 11 cases. Together these 11 men spent a combined total of approximately 130 years behind bars for crimes they didn’t commit.

The same study also found egregious racial disparities in the application of the death penalty. Researchers found that death sentences are imposed in cases with Black male defendants and White female victims at a rate that is 30 times higher than in cases with Black male defendants and Black male victims. Individuals convicted of killing White victims, regardless of the defendant’s race, are six times more likely to receive a death penalty than the killers of Black victims, and 14 times more likely to be executed. No White person has been executed in Louisiana for a crime against a Black victim since 1752.

A 2016 survey by Multiquest International found that 58 percent of voters preferred life in prison without parole or life in prison with parole after 35 years for persons convicted of first degree murder, while only 24 percent preferred the death penalty.

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