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.
New Yorker Article: "Revenge Killing: Race and the death penalty in a Louisiana parish"
The New Yorker has published an in-depth look at the death penalty in Caddo Parish, which is responsible for more death sentences in the past five years than any other jurisdiction in Louisiana.
In a piece titled, "Revenge Killing: Race and the death penalty in a Louisiana parish," author Rachel Aviv examines the case of Rodricus Crawford, an African-American man who was recently sentenced to death in Caddo for the murder of his one-year-old son. The District Attorney's office pursued charges against Crawford even after receiving a medical report that suggested the victim actually died of pneumonia.
The forensic pathologist who authored that report told Aviv that there “wasn’t enough evidence to even put this before a jury. You didn’t have anybody who thought this guy committed murder except for one pathologist who decided that it was homicide on what seemed like a whim.”
Aviv notes that 77% of people sentenced to death in Caddo in the past 40 years have been black, and nearly half were convicted of killing white victims. A white person has never been sentenced to death for killing a black person.
Read the full story here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/06/revenge-killing
Legislative Commission to Study the Death Penalty
Louisiana's Capital Punishment Fiscal Impact Commission, which was established by the legislature in 2014, will be studying the costs associated with the state's death penalty system over the course of this year. Subcommittees have been created to examine costs related to the prosecution, defense, and housing of defendants in capital cases compared to non-capital cases. In Louisiana, first-degree murder carries possible penalties of death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. The Commission's next meeting is set for February 25th. You can read more about it here.
Glenn Ford Becomes Louisiana's 10th Death Row Exoneree
Prosecutors Join Defense in Motion to Vacate Conviction; Believe Another Man Committed Crime
Glenn Ford sat on Louisiana's death row for nearly 30 years for a crime he did not commit. Caddo Parish prosecutors recently agreed to join the defense in asking to vacate Ford's conviction and death sentence, stating in their motion to a Caddo court that:
"the state now believes whatever the involvement of Glenn Ford in the robbery or murder of Isadore Rozeman, the new information, if known at the time of the trial, would reasonably have resulted in a different outcome. … Indeed, if the information had been within the knowledge of the state, Glenn Ford might not even have been arrested or indicted for this offense.”
According to Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic, Ford is one of the longest-serving death row inmates in modern American history to be exonerated and released. Cohen condemns the system that wrongfully put Ford on death row in the first place:
"Prosecutors believe the recent account of a confidential informant who claims that one of other four original co-defendants in the case, arrested long ago along with Ford, was actually the person who shot and killed Rozeman. This is not news to Ford. For three decades, stuck in inhumane conditions on death row in the state's notorious Angola prison, he has insisted that he had nothing to do with the murder and that he was involved in the case only after the fact.
Any exoneration is remarkable, of course. Any act of justice after decades of injustice is laudable. It is never too late to put to right a wrong. But what also is striking about this case is how weak it always was, how frequently Ford's constitutional rights were denied, and yet how determined Louisiana's judges were over decades to defend an indefensible result."
Caddo Parish continues to try more capital cases and sentence more people to death in the State of Louisiana than any other parish.
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.
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 2014 was the lowest in the modern era of the death penalty.
Read more about the national trends in DPIC's 2014 End of Year Report.