- ANTHONY IZAGUIRRE
By ANTHONY IZAGUIRRE
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — This year’s effort to end the death penalty in Louisiana likely ended Wednesday after House lawmakers rejected a proposal to abolish the punishment.
The House criminal justice committee voted 10-8 against the proposal after debate that had lawmakers trotting out lines of Scripture to counter the words of religious leaders who said capital punishment violates the sanctity of life.
Rep. Terry Landry, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, framed his appeal simply.
“Death sentence is barbaric, it’s inhumane and I believe that society and time has passed us by by keeping this on the books,” said Landry, who pushed a failed attempt to end the penalty last year.
Details about the costly nature of trying death penalty cases and the high rate of death row exonerations came next from James T. Dixon of the state public defenders board.
“If what you’re looking for is to execute those who committed crimes, it is an extremely ineffective policy,” he said.
Prosecutors spoke in opposition to the legislation, bringing with them stories of heinous crimes they said could be properly punished only through the death penalty.
Don Burkett, a district attorney in Sabine Parish, said that removing prosecutors’ ability to pursue capital punishment would hurt authorities.
“To take this tool away from the prosecutors of this state would be a serious mistake, and I implore you and I ask you to think about it before you take such drastic actions,” he said.
Lawmakers who voted against the bill pushed back against the religious leaders, with Rep. Valarie Hodges, a Republican, saying there are 30 instances where the death penalty is prescribed in the bible and Rep. Raymond Crews said that supporting capital punishment is actually a “pro-life” position.
“It’s been inferred here, I guess, that anybody pro-life should be for this bill, and I’m staunchly against it because I think when we take the death penalty off the table, that doesn’t recognize how important life is,” said Crews, a Republican. “It actually degrades the value of the lives that are taken.”
The failure of Landry’s bill comes a day after a similar bill passed a Senate committee. Wednesday’s vote in the House committee against the measure makes it unlikely that the Senate counterpart will advance.
House Bill 162: www.legis.la.gov