‘Sped up for a particular political reason:’ DA believes clemency requests from death row inmates moving too fast

After nearly all of Louisiana’s death row inmates asked Gov. Edwards to spare their lives, one of the most powerful DAs believes the clemency is moving too fast
Published: Jul. 13, 2023 at 10:49 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - After nearly all of Louisiana’s death row inmates asked Governor John Bel Edwards to spare their lives, one of the most powerful district attorneys in the state believes the clemency process is moving way too fast.

“It just seems like this on a fast track to be sped up for a particular political reason, and that’s where the rub is,” said EBR District Attorney Hillar Moore.

RELATED: ‘We’re going to fight it:’ Family members, prosecutors urge Gov. not to consider death row inmates’ clemency pleas

In a letter sent to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Moore said after more than 50 applications for commutation were filed for offenders on death row, the process is happening at an accelerated basis, with not a lot of time left.

Letter sent to Department of Safety and Corrections.
Letter sent to Department of Safety and Corrections.(WAFB)

Moore said he needs more public records and information before these matters go before a Parole Board hearing.

“I mean, this is just not the regular procedure. I mean look, we work hand and hand always with the Parole Board, these are good folks, well intended people, but it’s just the procedure that’s got us off guard, and is just different,” said DA Moore.

Out of the 50 applications that were filed last month, 10 of those violent offenders’ cases are from here in East Baton Rouge Parish.

“Do you think any of the 10 violent offenders on death row deserve to have their sentence, I guess commuted,” questioned WAFB’s Lester Duhe’.

“Absolutely not, none,” said Moore.

The district attorney believes it usually takes over a year to gather the documents and records needed to review a case, and for the offender to ultimately make it before a Parole Board for a vote.

With this sudden influx of requests, Moore said his office is scrambling now to gather all the information, while also dealing with the backlog of crime cases in East Baton Rouge Parish.

“You know, I respect the people’s opinion that are against the death penalty. I think in the cases that we have here, that they are warranted, legitimate, justified, sentences, but I do understand people would disagree,” said Moore.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) recently took a firm stance against the death penalty, even calling for lawmakers to abolish it without any luck this Legislative Session.

He weighed in on the clemency pleas from Death Row a few weeks ago.

“These applications have to be individually scrutinized and judged, and I don’t act on any of them unless and until the requisite vote of the Pardon Board happens,” said Gov. Edwards.

“But the pardon board is fully capable of handling these things, they’re following their usual procedures. So, it is not a rush job,” said Bill Quigly, Emeritus Professor of Law at Loyola University New Orleans.

But Quigley does not believe what seems like a sped-up process is a crisis. As most of these folks have been on death row for 10 years or more, and those documents are probably already available regarding those cases.

“I do think it is an unusual situation just because people are trying to get this before the governor, but it’s not hurried. People are not cutting corners, there’s not documents being hidden from anybody,” said Quigley.

District Attorney Moore believes the first hearings for a few offenders that applied for clemency could occur at the end of the month. That’s where the Parole Board would decide to set a date or not, to even consider their case. Which at this rate, Moore believes could take place in late Fall.

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