Heavily amended 'Electric Chair Bill' passes in committee

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A measure known as the electric chair bill was heard Tuesday afternoon in a House committee, but the author quickly took the chair off the table to advance the bill.

A bill that started out resurrecting Louisiana's use of the electric chair, once nicknamed "gruesome gertie," was heavily amended but still passed.

The House criminal justice committee advanced a measure aimed at eventually getting executions back on track in Louisiana. There have been two executions in the past 12 years, both by lethal injection.

"This is not a position of mine that I feel that I want to put somebody to death by the electric chair. The reality is it's a situation many states are having on how do you actually go through with executions in today's day and age," said Representative Joe Lopinto (R) - Kenner.

Currently it's only legal to execute someone in Louisiana by lethal injection, but there is a growing problem. A company who has been selling the state the lethal drug wont sell it to them anymore, due to bad publicity coming from public relations campaigns by anti- death penalty groups. Corrections Secretary Jimmy Leblanc says his department is in a bad position of having to uphold court ordered death warrants without the tools to do so.

"It's a significant issue and he indicated we do need a dialogue. We do need to decide what we are going to do," said Jimmy Leblanc, Department of Corrections Secretary.

LeBlanc says currently only one of the 85 inmates on death row has a signed execution date. A hearing has been set in federal court for June to decide if that inmate can be put to death using the current drug, which is no longer available for purchase.

Others felt the discussion of how to execute people should not have been taking place at all.

"I just want to remind the committee that what we're talking about here is how we are going to kill somebody. I find that incredibly reprehensible and offensive and the Catholic Bishops would too," said Rob Tasman, Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Ultimately the committee took a different approach. Representative Joe Lopinto of Kenner amended the bill to prevent the public from knowing who was supplying the execution drugs to the state of Louisiana. The committee agreed, and without objection, passed the bill.

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