A move to abolish the death penalty in Louisiana has been dropped in the Legislature. A House committee on Wednesday (May 17) killed a bill to end capital punishment, dooming a similar bill in the Senate.
Louisiana state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, foreground, and Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, engage in debate with members of the House Committee on Criminal Justice over a proposed ban on the death penalty. (Photo by Sarah Gamard, Manship School News Service)
The House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice narrowly defeated House Bill 101 by Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, which would have eliminated the death penalty for all people convicted after Aug. 1 of capital crimes if voters agreed to the abolition. The measure failed on an 8-9 vote. In light of that decision, Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, is pulling a similar proposal that is pending in the Senate. Claitor’s Senate Bill 142 was the same as Landry’s bill but did not require a referendum.
“This is the toughest thing I have ever done in my life,” said Landry, a former State Police superintendent who also served two years in the military during the Vietnam War. Neither bill was meant to affect the 72 people already on death row in Louisiana. Both bills would have kept their death sentences in place.
The Louisiana District Attorneys Association, Louisiana Sheriffs Association and Louisiana Chiefs of Police opposed Landry’s bill. District Attorney Bridget Dinvaut of St. John the Baptist Parish told the House committee that the bill would affect a capital punishment case she is prosecuting against defendants accused of murdering two sheriff’s deputies and wounding two other deputies. One slain deputy’s relative also testified. The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops supported Landry’s bill and had been lobbying legislators for it. Ray Krone, an innocent man who had been on death row in Arizona, also testified for the bill. In 2002, Krone was released from prison after DNA testing showed he hadn’t committed the crime that sent him to death row. Landry’s bill failed in part because Rep. Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro, surprisingly voted against it. Pylant, a former Franklin Parish sheriff, was listed on the Legislature’s website as a co-sponsor of the bill. Had he voted for the bill, it would have passed the committee to move to the full House, and Claitor might have moved forward with his Senate bill.
Rep. Steve Pylant
Pylant spoke in support of Claitor’s bill in a Senate committee April 25, and he has given several news media interviews where he explained why he was co-sponsoring Landry’s legislation. “I think certain crimes should be punishable by death,” Pylant told The Associated Press in April. “But the fact is we’re not enforcing it. We spend millions of dollars on death penalty appeals, and we claim we can’t get the medicines to do it. … Whether you’re for capital punishment or not, it seems like at some point common sense ought to take hold. In an interview Wednesday, Pylant repeated those sentiments. But he said he got involved with Landry’s legislation only to bring attention to the fact that Louisiana isn’t executing people quickly enough. “If I hadn’t put my name on it, you wouldn’t be out here talking to me,” Pylant told reporters after the vote. Louisiana has executed only one person since 2002. Gerald Bordelon had waived his right to more appeals in 2010 and was executed then.
The death penalty is expensive: Louisiana spends $9 million to $10 million annually on defense counsel for Louisiana’s 73 inmates sentenced to death. That doesn’t count the costs for prosecutors and courts — or local parish expenditures on capital defense. Pylant said Louisiana could be executing more people if officials prioritized it. He pointed out that Arkansas executed four people in eight days in April. Arkansas initially scheduled eight executions in April, before the drugs it used to kill people were to expire, but four executions were put on hold by legal challenges. Louisiana, Arkansas and several other states are having trouble acquiring drugs for lethal injection because the drug companies no longer want to sell them to state for capital punishment.
“We say we can’t get the drugs to execute with. Arkansas has executed four or five people in the last month,” Pylant said. “So something’s not right. The powers that be apparently don’t have the will to carry out the executions.”
Claitor’s bill to abolish the death penalty won 6-1 backing from a Senate committee only hours after the first Arkansas’ execution took place. And Pylant became a co-sponsor on Landry’s legislation well before any of the Arkansas executions took place. Pylant said what happened in Arkansas didn’t influence his vote on Landry’s bill on Wednesday or change his position. But he returned to the Arkansas executions more than once in an interview.
“We need to start executing people,” he said. “They said we can’t get the pharmaceuticals. Well, why can other people get them when we can’t?”
“We don’t want to give the lethal injection? Well, we’ve got firing squads. We’ve got the electric chair. We’ve got other things,” he said. If Louisiana wanted to use a method other than lethal injection to carry out executions, it would require a change to the law. No lawmaker in 2017 brought legislation to change the method.
Here’s how the committee voted Wednesday:
Abolish death penalty
- John Bagneris, D-New Orleans
- Barbara Carpenter, D-Baton Rouge
- Randal Gaines, D-LaPlace
- Ted James, D-Baton Rouge
- Terry Landry, D-New Iberia
- Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge
- Joe Marino, no party-Gretna
- John Stefanski, R-Crowley
- Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville
- Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City
- Stephen Dwight, R-Lake Charles
- Chris Hazel, R-Pineville
- Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs
- Frank Howard, R-Many
- Sherman Mack, R-Albany
- Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport
- Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro.
Police lead suspected shooter Dylann Roof into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, U.S. June 18, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Miczek/File Photo
CHARLESTON, SC – JUNE 19: (L-R) Sisters Margaret Kerry, Mary Thecla and Kathleen Lang of the Order of the Daughters of St. Paul pray outside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church June 19, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called for the death penalty for Dylann Storm Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina, if he is found guilty of murdering nine people during a prayer meeting at the church Wednesday night. Among the dead is the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the church which, according to the National Park Service, is the oldest black congregation in America south of Baltimore. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Crowds take part in the morning service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, June 21, 2015. The church reopened today for its first service since Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, allegedly killed nine people at a Bible-study meeting in the historic African-American church in an attack U.S. officials are investigating as a hate crime. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Department of Homeland Security officers stand outside the Charleston Federal Courthouse during the federal trial of Dylann Roof who was found guilty of 33 counts including hate crimes in Charleston, South Carolina December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill
John Pinckney (C) father of Emanuel Church shooting victim Rev. Clementa Pinckney, leaves the Charleston Federal Courthouse after Dylann Roof was found guilty on 33 counts including hate crimes in Charleston, South Carolina December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Dylann Storm Roof appears by closed-circuit television at his bond hearing in Charleston, South Carolina June 19, 2015 in a still image from video. A 21-year-old white man has been charged with nine counts of murder in connection with an attack on a historic black South Carolina church, police said on Friday, and media reports said he had hoped to incite a race war in the United States. REUTERS/POOL
Family and friends of the Emanuel Church shooting victims, arrive at the Charleston Federal Courthouse during the federal trial of Dylann Roof in Charleston, South Carolina January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Randall Hill
CHARLESTON, SC – JULY 31: Attorney William Nettles, part of the defense team for Dylann Roof, arrives at federal court prior to the arraignment hearing for the Emanuel AME gunman JULY 31, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof, the shooter involved in the June 17 massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston faces 33 federal charges, including hate crimes. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Mourner Rosie Frederick kneels outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina June 18, 2015 a day after a mass shooting left nine dead during a bible study at the church. Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man, was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of having fatally shot nine people at the historic African-American church in South Carolina. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Wednesday’s attack as a hate crime, motivated by racism or other prejudice. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
CHARLESTON, SC – JULY 31: Jerome Smalls stands outside a federal court building JULY 31, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Earlier in the morning Dylann Roof, the shooter involved in the June massacre at Emanuel AME Church was arraigned on 33 federal charges, including federal hate crimes. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Charleston, SC – December 6, 2016: Mother Emanuel AME Church photographed Tuesday, Dec. 06, 2016 in Charleston. (Photo by Alex Holt for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Judge J.C. Nicholson makes a point during a hearing on a gag order in the pending trial of Dylann Roof, at the Judicial Center in Charleston, South Carolina July 16, 2015. The South Carolina Press Association is challenging a decision by Judge Nicholson made last week on potential trial participants as well as banning the release of documents in the case, including 911 police dispatch calls, coroner’s reports and witness statements. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Photo shows the Charleston Federal Courthouse during the federal trial of Dylann Roof in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Randall Hill
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 18: U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during a statement regarding the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, June 18, 2015 at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Authorities have arrested 21-year-old Dylann Roof of Lexington County, South Carolina, as a suspect in last night’s deadly shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Anthony Thompson, husband of Emanuel Church shooting victim Myra Thompson, leaves the courthouse during a break at the Charleston Federal Courthouse during the federal trial of Dylann Roof in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Randall Hill
A Department of Homeland Security officer prepares to stop traffic as security personnel transport Dylann Roof in a van after a jury sentenced him to death at the Charleston Federal Courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Randall Hill
South Carolina shooting suspect Dylann Roof (R) is escorted by police after being detained in Shelby, North Carolina, June 18, in this still image from a dash cam video released by the Shelby Police Department June 23, 2015. Roof is accused of murdering nine people in a historic black South Carolina church in Charleston on June 17. REUTERS/Shelby Police Department/Handout THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Dylann Roof is seen in this June 18, 2015 handout booking photo provided by Charleston County Sheriff’s Office. REUTERS/Charleston County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via Reuters FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
A sign of support is pictured at a makeshift memorial at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, June 20, 2015. Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, is accused of killing nine people at a Bible-study meeting in the historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in an attack U.S. officials are investigating as a hate crime. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Judge James Gosnell speaks during a bond hearing for Dylann Roof who appeared in a video feed from jail in North Charleston, S.C. June 19, 2015. Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder in connection with an attack on a historic black South Carolina church, police said on Friday, and media reports said he had hoped to incite a race war in the United States. Grace Beahm/The Post and Courier/Pool
Police lead suspected shooter Dylann Roof into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, June 18, 2015. Roof, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, is accused of killing nine people at a Bible-study meeting in a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in an attack U.S. officials are investigating as a hate crime. REUTERS/Jason Miczek
John Strong (C), special agent in charge of the FBI in Charlotte, NC speaks to the media from the Shelby Police Station in Shelby, North Carolina, June 18, 2015. Police captured suspected killer Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, who is accused of killing nine people at a Bible-study meeting in a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in an attack U.S. officials are investigating as a hate crime. REUTERS/Jason Miczek
Mourners kneel outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina June 18, 2015 a day after a mass shooting left nine dead during a bible study at the church. Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man, was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of having fatally shot nine people at the historic African-American church in South Carolina. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Wednesday’s attack as a hate crime, motivated by racism or other prejudice. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
CHARLESTON, SC – JUNE 18: An exterior view of Emanuel AME Church on June 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Nine people were killed on June 17 in a mass shooting during a prayer meeting at the church. A 21-year-old suspect, Dylann Roof of Lexington, South Carolina, was arrersted Thursday during a traffic stop. Emanuel AME Church is one of the oldest in the South. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 18: (L-R) Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) pray with other members of the US Congress during a prayer circle in front of the US Capitol to honor those gunned down last night inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina, June 18, 2015 in Washington, DC. Police have arrested Dylann Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina in the shooting that killed 9 people. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Police tape is seen outside the Emanuel AME Church, after a mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church the night before in Charleston, South Carolina on June 18, 2015. Police captured a white suspect in a mass killing at one of the oldest black churches in the United States, the latest gun massacre to leave the country reeling. Police detained 21-year-old Dylann Roof, shown wearing the flags of defunct white supremacist regimes in pictures taken from social media, after nine churchgoers were shot dead. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Doha, Qatar: A Doha court on Sunday upheld the death penalty in the retrial of a Qatari man convicted of murdering a 24-year-old British female teacher.
Badr Hashim Khamis Abdallah al-Jabr was found guilty of stabbing Lauren Patterson and then burning her body in the Qatari desert in October 2013.
“The defendant was fully aware of the consequences of his actions,” Doha’s court of cassation ruled. It said that Jabr, who was not in court, should face the death penalty, the original verdict handed down in 2014.
Use of capital punishment is rare in Qatar, with the last known case of the death penalty being carried out thought to date back to 2003.
The judge said that any death penalty would be carried out by hanging or shooting. Lauren’s mother, Alison, who has regularly travelled to the Gulf for hearings, was in court on Sunday.
She wept as details of the crime were read out and afterwards hugged other family members and friends who were present. Earlier this month, she said before the same court that she did not want to forgive Jabr, although she had told AFP she did not believe in the death penalty.
Jabr had previously been convicted of the murder and sentenced to death, but that ruling was quashed, prompting Sunday’s retrial.
In a lengthy verdict read out in court on Sunday, the judge dismissed all aspects of Jabr’s defence. The defence argued at various times that he had acted in self-defence, was mentally incapable at the time of the murder, was interrogated by police without a lawyer and that the young teacher had committed suicide.
But the judge said “several consequential strands of evidence” pointed to Jabr’s guilt. He recounted how the Qatari and the British teacher had met at a central Doha hotel. They then left the hotel and went back to a property owned by Jabr, where they had sex, said the judge.
Previous court evidence had heard the schoolteacher had been sexually assaulted. It was afterwards that Jabr attacked Patterson, a teacher in Qatar from Kent in southeast England, stabbing her with a knife which had a 20-centimetre (almost eight-inch) blade, the court heard. Her body was then taken to the desert and burned on charcoal bricks.
Patterson’s remains were discovered several hours later by members of a local tribe, alerted by the smell of the burning, the court was told. Jabr’s accomplice Mohamed Abdallah Hassan Abdul Aziz, who helped to burn the body, was previously sentenced to three years in jail. The Briton’s murder was one of two high-profile cases involving Western teachers in Qatar in recent years.
In 2012, Jennifer Brown, a newly-arrived US teacher from Pennsylvania, was murdered by a Kenyan security guard, Alvine Moseti Anyona, who is now serving life in prison.