La. Board of Pardons decides on further review for death row clemency requests

The Louisiana Board of Pardons met Monday morning after a number of inmates on death asked Governor Edwards to spare their lives before he leaves office.
Published: Jul. 24, 2023 at 5:49 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2023 at 3:28 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Nearly all of Louisiana’s inmates sitting on death row requested to be taken off and have hearings before the Louisiana Board of Pardons.

Those inmates saw a glimpse of hope after the governor’s recent comments, while speaking at Loyola University, hoping to have their hearing expedited before the governor leaves office at the end of the year. But those requests got expedited hearings before the pardon board was denied.

The Louisiana Board of Pardons says in order to have hearings on death row inmates they would need to suspend their rules to speed up the process and have them heard before John Bel Edwards leaves office.

“Very bad position for them that they were put in, but I think this was a calculated move that obviously backfired. We filed our objection and then the Attorney General gave his opinion that was our opinion and obviously the board agreed,” said East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore.

Within days after the governor’s recent comments against the death penalty, 51 Out of the 57 death row inmates filed for clemency. That would mean their sentences would change from death row to life in prison. DA Moore called the move “suspicious”. But Cecelia Kappel, out of New Orleans with the Capitol Appeals Project, says her organization is disheartened to hear of the board’s decision. And says the board absolutely has the discretion to expedite the hearings.

“The opportunity was there to filed for clemency and the opportunity for governor john bel Edwards to sign off on any recommendations was there. And so, of course, we’re going to take that opportunity. The rules specifically allow the board to consider any application regardless of time period when that person has been sentenced to death because of the gravity of these cases. It just seems to be an orchestrated attempt to block the board from shining a light on this broken system of the death penalty that we have,” said Kappel.

Shortly after the requests were made, letters were sent out to the families of victims alerting them of the situation. DA Moore says the pain in their voices over the phone was unbearable.

“I mean it was...Those phone calls were hard to take. But the wounds are still pretty damn fresh and it’s kinda like ripping a band-aid off the wound and hurt them,” Moore added.

The pardon board could still come back and revisit this. But for now, it’s a win for Louisiana prosecutors.

The following is a statement from Loyola law professor Bill Quigley:

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