Death penalty in Louisiana could be thing of the past if bill passes

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - If one state lawmaker gets his way, the death penalty could soon be a thing of the past in Louisiana.

A panel of Senate lawmakers approved a bill eliminating the death penalty after little more than 20 minutes of discussion.

Senator JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, is sponsoring the legislation, which would take the lethal punishment off the table for crimes committed starting in August of this year. A Senate panel approved such a bill last year, but it stalled from there.

Morrell called the practice archaic and risky, arguing if a wrongly convicted individual is put to death, that punishment cannot be undone. Morrell said there are alternatives.

"Life in prison without the possibility of parole is in fact its own sort of death sentence. And for those you have ever visited Angola, whoever visited our maximum security prison, these are not club fed. These are harsh places where people serve a very appropriated, life-long punishment," said Morrell.

A Catholic bishop also spoke in support of the bill, saying the death penalty violates the sanctity of life. Sheriffs and district attorneys opposed the measure, but did not speak out.

The bill now heads to the Senate. A similar bill will be heard in House committee Wednesday. That's where a bill eliminating lethal punishment died last year.

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