BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s senators overwhelmingly Monday rejected a proposal to end the state’s use of capital punishment.
Republican Sen. Dan Claitor, of Baton Rouge, proposed to abolish the death penalty for any offenses committed starting in 2021 — if voters agreed in the November 2020 presidential election.
Only 13 senators backed the idea, while 25 opposed it. The legislation needed support from 26 senators to pass. House lawmakers have spurned similar proposals for the last two years.
Claitor, a former prosecutor, continues to propose the abolition of capital punishment in Louisiana, citing his Catholic faith and his law enforcement knowledge.
“The death penalty doesn’t work as a deterrent. The cost of the punishment is too much … It’s a morally wrong thing to do, and at the end of the day, it cheapens life,” he told senators.
Sen. Gerald Long, a Natchitoches Republican who opposed the measure, said Louisiana uses the punishment rarely and includes a lengthy appeals process to review cases before anyone is executed.
“It seems our legal system provides a number of checks and balances,” he said.
Louisiana’s last lethal injection was in 2010, when the convicted murderer waived further appeals. Seventy condemned inmates are awaiting execution. The corrections department says it can’t obtain lethal injection drugs because companies don’t want their products associated with executions. A federal court order prohibits Louisiana from carrying out any death sentences until mid-2019.
Claitor cited overturned death sentences and statistics showing the penalty is disproportionately handed out to African Americans. He said 20 states prohibit capital punishment.
“We’re trending away from the death penalty,” he said.
While lawmakers have resisted efforts to ban capital punishment, a separate measure aimed at helping restart stalled lethal injections in Louisiana is advancing in the House.
Legislation by Rep. Nicholas Muscarello, a Republican from Hammond, would offer confidentiality to anyone who helps facilitate an execution. The measure would shield information about the person or company that manufactures, supplies, transports, prescribes or compounds drugs, medical supplies or equipment for an execution.
Muscarello’s bill won support from one House committee and awaits debate in a second committee.