51 Louisiana death row prisoners file clemency petitions in the hopes Governor John Bel Edwards and the Board of Pardons will commute their death sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Louisiana Capital Appeals Project director Cecelia Kappel is an attorney for several of the inmates who have filed clemency applications.
“The Pardon Board will hopefully hear these cases and issue a recommendation that the governor can decide to either sign off on or not, and we hope that he signs off on them,” said Kappel.
Kappel says when looking at these cases collectively, it’s clear the system is fundamentally broken. She says nine innocent people have been exonerated from Louisiana’s death row. She says 42 of 57 people under a death sentence are people of color, at least 23 have a documented intellectual disability and 39 have been diagnosed with serious mental illness and or brain damage.
“Some have claims that they were insane at the time, some had traumatic childhoods, it depends on the individual and these petitions are going to go to the pardon board,” said Kappel.
Kappel says they hope the pardon board will hold hearings this fall. Earlier this year, Governor Edwards announced his opposition to the death penalty. She hopes Edwards decides to commute the death sentences of 51 inmates before he leaves office in early January.
“We knew as people that represent the guys on death row that we had to take this opportunity and file for clemency,” said Kappel.
57 people are on Louisiana’s death row.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office says any applications recommended to the governor by the Board of Pardons for gubernatorial approval are reviewed on a case-by-case basis before a final decision is made.
Attorney General and Republican candidate for Governor, Jeff Landry, says he’ll fight the clemency pleas.