We did a little yesterday to catch our readers up on the running controversy between Attorney General Jeff Landry and Gov. John Bel Edwards over the latter’s somewhat suspicious protestations of incapability to conduct scheduled executions of prisoners on Death Row. Landry is getting hammered by the state’s Democrat media over his position – which where Edwards is concerned is that the governor’s real problem is a lack of will. Landry noted that if the stated obstacle to carrying out death sentences – namely, that pharmaceutical companies won’t sell the state the drugs needed for lethal injections – is legitimate, then Louisiana simply needs to get creative. He says the state can buy the chemical ingredients to those drugs and manufacture them in the pharmacy at Angola State Penitentiary – or, failing that, there are lots of other ways to carry out an execution.
For this Landry is now a barbarian, of course, despite the fact he’s winning the argument. Landry’s main question to Edwards is whether he’s willing to carry out death sentences or not, and if he is then why isn’t he willing to help to find a solution.
And Edwards’ Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc weighed in to defend the governor yesterday…
Why does Attorney General Jeff Landry continue to play this out in the media? I have an open door policy, and would gladly discuss with him the death penalty issues. However, the attorney general has never personally tried to contact me. Mr. Landry’s latest letter to the governor provides misinformation concerning the death penalty in Louisiana.
Louisiana is not able to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out executions. Pharmaceutical companies will not sell these drugs to the state for use in the death penalty. DOC has explored the option of using a compound pharmacists but this option was fruitless due to the lack of privacy protections and the inability to remain anonymous. In his latest letter to Governor Edwards, Attorney General Landry incorrectly claims Angola’s pharmacy can produce its own drugs at the prison for lethal injection. Early on, the DOC explored this option and determined Angola’s pharmacy is not capable of compounding intravenous medications, and also does not have the type of compounding facility to do so, which is required by the state’s pharmacy board. Were we able to acquire the ability, the second problem remained that we were not able to obtain the raw drugs for the reasons mentioned above.
Mr. Landry is accurate in that new legislation must be proposed to solve the death penalty issue. However, in the past three legislative sessions Mr. Landry’s office has not presented any legislation to help alleviate this roadblock, until now. Following last October’s meeting between the DOJ and the DOC, Dale Lee of the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office indicated he would take the lead in pursing legislation to allow for alternative forms of execution. That was not done.
Finally, I never said that the governor did not have any interest with moving forward with any executions, and to say so is putting words in my mouth. Again, I would like to reiterate, the attorney general and I have never even had a conversation regarding the death penalty.
With respect to LeBlanc, he’s having a conversation with Landry now. And this being a matter of the public interest there is nothing untoward or inappropriate in that conversation playing out in a way the citizens of Louisiana can see it.
Moreover, LeBlanc stepping in to argue Edwards’ position doesn’t clarify anything – especially when no one knows Edwards’ position. If LeBlanc says the governor didn’t object to moving forward with executions, then the governor can speak for himself and offer solutions of his own to get them going.
And one solution is most obvious here – namely that Louisiana can simply offer Death Row inmates the choice of execution methods.
There used to be several states in which condemned prisoners could choose between lethal injections or firing squads, but for some reason that has gone from favor. Why? And why just those two methods? There are countless ways a person could die, many of which are relatively painless and quite sudden.
We’re not interested in instituting cruel and unusual capital punishments, though what should be remembered is nobody ends up on Death Row without an affirmative decision to put them there first by a district attorney’s office deciding to seek the death penalty for him and then a jury of his peers weighing his offense and agreeing. And then there is a lengthy, and atrociously expensive, appeals process to vet that verdict.
With all of that in place, there is no reason to suggest it’s cruel to offer the choice of method to the condemned. He’s getting a better deal than his victim did.
The question here isn’t really about execution methods, though. As Landry noted, it’s about John Bel Edwards and what his position on capital punishment is. He needs to stop hiding on this issue and be clear about where he stands.