State Rep Kyle Green Jr. Pushes Legislation To End Death Penalty

Source: Louisiana House of Representatives

Louisiana is one of 27 states where the death penalty is still the rule of law. State Rep. Kyle Green Jr., D-Marrero, is strongly advocating for legislation to change that equation. He’s authored HB 228 which eliminates the death penalty in Louisiana as a possible punishment for the offense of first degree murder, for degree rape and treason. Governor John Bel Edwards supports the legislation and referenced it in his remarks on the opening day of the 2023 session.  

“The administration of capital punishment serves no purpose in today’s society,” said Green. “It’s immoral, costly, and does not deter future crime. Through the high number of exonerated inmates from death row, we have an extremely high propensity to wrongfully convict and condemn innocent lives to death.”  

The bill could be heard by the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice committee in the next few weeks. Jefferson Parish legislator Joe Marino chairs the committee. Other area legislators serving on the committee include newly elected State Rep. Alonzo Knox, State Rep. Ray Garofalo of St. Bernard Parish, and State Rep. Debbie Villio of Jefferson Parish. Both Garofalo and Villio are Republicans. Marino is an Independent. 

Present law provides that any person convicted of the crime of first degree murder shall be punished by death or life imprisonment at hard labor with benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence. 

It also provides that any person convicted of the crime of first degree rape shall be punished by life imprisonment at hard labor without the aforementioned benefits. However, if the victim of first degree rape was under the age of 13 years, the district attorney may seek the death penalty. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court found that the death sentence for first degree rape of a juvenile was unconstitutional in the case of Kennedy v Louisiana, the provision was never repealed from present law. 

In addition to eliminating the death penalty as a possible punishment for the crimes of first degree murder, first degree rape and treason, the proposed law further provides for the penalty of life imprisonment without the benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence for these offenses. Finally, the death penalty elimination as provided in the proposed law shall apply prospectively only.  

Oklahoma has the highest per capita rate of capital punishment followed by Texas, Delaware, Missouri and Alabama. Between 1976 and Sept 1, 2020 Oklahoma executed 112 persons or 2.83 per every 100,000 residents. Louisiana currently ranks 11th with 28 executions between 1976 and September 1, 2020 – 20 via electrocution and 8 via lethal injection. There have been no executions in Louisiana since 2010 and no involuntary executions since 2002. Gerald Bordelon was the last Louisiana inmate to be executed. He waived his appeals and asked the state to carry out his sentence, according to Wikipedia. Of the other 27 Louisiana inmates who were executed, 13 were Black and 14 were White. They include 30-year-old Dalton Prejean who murdered Louisiana State Trooper Donald Cleveland and 34-year-old Leslie Lowenfield who was convicted of murdering five victims.    

Executions in Louisiana are currently performed at the Louisiana State Penitentiary by lethal injection. Though often considered by proponents to be a more “humane” means of death, critics describe the practice as “cruel and unusual.” The drugs used are typically a barbiturate, paralytic and potassium solution. The cause of death is heart arrhythmia. Other countries whose laws allow execution by lethal injection include Mainland China, Thailand, Guatemala, Taiwan, the Maldives, Nigeria and Vietnam. The Philippines abolished their lethal injection law for death penalty inmates in 2006.  

Other means of execution include the use of a firing squad, which is still legal in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah, South Carolina and Idaho, and electrocution which was first adopted in 1888 as a quicker and more humane alternative to hanging.     

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