The Louisiana Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is a grassroots coalition dedicated to achieving non-violent and effective alternatives to the death penalty. We recognize that Louisiana’s death penalty is socially, racially and economically unjust. We believe that the state’s limited resources should be channeled into local communities to prevent crime and better support families affected by murder.
Nachitoches Man Willard Allen Has Conviction and Death Sentence Overturned
Court Allowed Biased Juror to Sit on Jury
The Associated Press reports that U.S. District Judge Dee D. Drell of Alexandria granted Willard Allen's petition to have his 1994 murder conviction and death sentence overturned on February 17, 2014 after finding that a biased juror was allowed to sit on Allen's jury.
The federal judge found that the juror could not consider giving Allen a life sentence and was "never otherwise rehabilitated, nor did he ever indicate he would weigh the evidence and/or decide the case fairly and impartially." The Court ruled, "Accordingly, we find petitioner's unreliable conviction cannot be the basis for criminal punishment, much less a sentence of death. ... he has met his burden to have that conviction vacated and for a new trial."
According to the Associated Press,
Drell returned the case to state court with instructions to conduct a bail hearing within 45 days of the judgment. In addition, the state has 270 days to decide whether to retry the case. If that doesn't happen, the judge said, the state must "unconditionally discharge petitioner from custody," he wrote.
Read the entire article here.
Louisiana DOC Makes Last-Minute Change to Execution Protocol as it Scrambles for Drugs
Christopher Sepulvado's Scheduled Execution is Delayed for 90 Days
The Lens reports that the Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) changed its execution protocol on January 27, 2014 to allow for the use of an experimental drug combination, the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone used in a recently botched Ohio execution, in Louisiana executions if pentobarbital is not available.
The Louisiana DOC has conceded that it has been unable to procure pentobarbital from any pharmacy, though The Lens previously exposed the DOC's interest in acquiring the drug from an Oklahoma compounding pharmacy unlicensed in Louisiana, which would have violated state law.
In its failed efforts to procure drugs for Christopher Sepulvado's scheduled execution which was set for February 5, 2014, the State appeared to violate its own execution protocol, which states that lethal injection drugs must be obtained at least 30 days in advance of a scheduled execution.
Further, the State is creating the unacceptable risk of prolonged suffering by using an experimental drug cocktail that was used by the Ohio Department of Correction to execute Dennis McGuire on January 16, 2014, where the condemned was “struggling and gasping loudly for air, making snorting and choking sounds which lasted for at least 10 minutes, with his chest heaving and his fist clinched” throughout his execution.
The ad hoc, experimental nature of the execution protocol that the Louisiana DOC intends to use to execute Mr. Sepulvado is deeply troubling, and suggests that the State is ill-prepared to ensure that that Louisiana executions will adhere to the requirements of the U.S. Constitution.
UPDATE: On February 3rd, Judge Brady ordered a 90 day stay of execution pending further litigation. See The Lens article here.
Juries Reject the Death Penalty in Louisiana
Since the beginning of 2012, Louisiana juries have repeatedly rejected the death penalty in capital trials, reflecting a national trend in declining numbers of new death sentences. There was only 1 new death sentence in Louisiana in 2012 (a resentence) and 2 new death sentences in 2013. All of these came from a single parish, Caddo Parish.
In the cases of Kenneth Barnes (Orleans Parish), Samuel Jordan (Caddo Parish), Christopher Cope (Caddo Parish), Daniel Prince (Acadia Parish), and Barry Edge (St. Tammany) defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole rather than the death penalty following the sentencing phase of their capital trials.
Nationally, death sentences are at an all-time low. The number of new death sentences in 2012 was the near the lowest in the modern era of the death penalty, second only to the number in 2011. States such as North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina and Indiana didn't sentence anyone to death at all.
Read more about the national trends in DPIC's 2013 End of Year Report.