La. House panel kills bill eliminating death penalty

La. House panel kills bill eliminating death penalty

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An effort to eliminate the death penalty in Louisiana hit a familiar dead-end at the state capitol.

A House committee voted 10-8 Wednesday to reject the bill, which would have taken capital punishment off the table for all offenses committed on or after Aug. 1, 2018.

The former head of state police, Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, sponsored the legislation for the second year in a row. And for the second year in a row, the same committee voted to kill the legislation.

Landry argued the death penalty is both expensive and risky. Over the past decade, the state's public defender says Louisiana has spent close to $100 million defending capital cases. On top of that, Landry said, the state runs the risk of killing innocent people.

"[The] death sentence is barbaric, it's inhumane," Landry said. "This is a piece of legislation that literally decides life and death."

However, in House committee, another argument dominated the debate: the question of morality. Some lawmakers used religion to defend the practice, while others said the death penalty is akin to playing God.

"Give to Caesar what is Caesar and give to God what is God's. I really don't think it's debatable the gift of life comes from God," said Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge. Claitor sponsored legislation eliminating the death penalty last year.

"There's 30 places in the Bible that prescribe the death penalty," said Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, defending capital punishment.

Landry's bill had the support of several religious leaders and members of the clergy.

Meanwhile, district attorneys objected, arguing that the death penalty should remain an option for extreme cases. That sentiment was echoed by some lawmakers.

"I struggle with taking that from a victim and putting myself in their shoes," said Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley.

On Tuesday, a Senate panel voted in support of a nearly identical measure eliminating the death penalty. That bill's fate is now in question.

In order to become law, the bill would have to make it through the same House committee that killed the death penalty bill Wednesday.

Landry said he plans to bring the bill again next year.

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