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Home » La. House Committee Approves Methods of Execution Secrecy Bill

La. House Committee Approves Methods of Execution Secrecy Bill

by Minden Press-Herald

By Jordyn Wilson | LSU Manship School New Service 

BATON ROUGE — In a continuing flood of criminal justice legislation, a Louisiana House committee approved a bill that would keep secret the means and methods of execution of a death-row inmate.

The 12-5 vote by the House and Governmental Affairs committee follows action elsewhere in the Capitol on Tuesday that expanded capital punishment to include electrocution and injection of nitrogen hypoxia. The state’s new governor, Republican Gov. Jeff Landry, said he wants to resume capital punishment. He called the state Legislature into a special session on crime until early March.

The governor wants to address a public outcry over shootings, carjackings and violent crimes, and to roll back part of an overhaul of criminal justice measures taken by the Legislature several years ago under former Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat.

Proponents contend that one reason Louisiana has not executed anyone on death row since 2010 is due to the unwanted publicity for pharmaceutical manufacturers who sell the lethal drugs.

 Rep. Nicholas Muscarello Jr., R-Hammond, said his bill tracks laws in other states that have resumed executions and successfully kept details about  the executions private.

“This is why Louisiana has not had an execution in over 10 years,” said Muscarello, arguing that confidentiality is necessary for companies and individuals carrying out these executions.

The law mandates that any violations of the proposed law shall face prison terms for up to two years and fines of up to $50,000. The bill will eventually be considered by the full House where it is expected to be passed along with a similar bill in the Senate and sent to the governor for his signature.

Members of the House who opposed the bill, however, argued that it was not the state’s business to protect the reputation of  a manufacturer selling drugs that could be used for execution.

Rep. Delisha Boyd, D-New Orleans said that the focus should be more on the individuals who are threatening the manufacturers of the drug, rather than protecting the identity of the companies. 

Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, followed up with a question about potential conflicts of interest. “If we are protecting the company, how do we know who is owning a company?  she asked. “If I can own the company and sell the drug, that is a conflict of interest,’’ she said. 

Organizations opposing the measure, known as  House Bill 6, included The Promise of Justice Initiative, New Orleans nonprofit advocacy group,  and the ACLU.

“We say justice is blind, but that doesn’t mean we do justice in the dark, which is what this bill will do,” said Michael Cahoon of The Promise of Justice Initiative.

  Representatives in support of Muscarello’s bill disagreed. 

“This is a step of justice,” said Rep. Mark Wright, R-Covington. “This is not about us dealing with the records; it is about us being able to execute.”

The bill also had the support of the influential Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.

Before approving the measure, the committee cleared an amendment instructing the state’s department of public safety and corrections to make counseling services available for any person involved in the execution.

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