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Death penalty upheld as Louisiana House panel blocks move to abolish it

A move to abolish the death penalty[1] in Louisiana has been dropped in the Legislature. A House committee on Wednesday (May 17) killed a bill to end capital punishment[2], 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[3] 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[4] 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[5] 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[6] 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[7] 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[8] 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

Against abolition

  • 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.


  1. ^ death penalty (
  2. ^ capital punishment (
  3. ^ House Bill 101 (
  4. ^ Senate Bill 142 (
  5. ^ State Police (
  6. ^ St. John the Baptist Parish (
  7. ^ Catholic (
  8. ^ Franklin Parish (

Gary M. Thiel Obituary

HUBBARD, Ohio There will be a Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday May 20, 2017 at St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Hubbard with the Rev. Michael Swierz officiating for Gary M. Thiel age 73, of Hubbard who passed away on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at home. Gary was born September 17, 1943 in Sharon, Pennsylvania, a son of John and Vivian Betty Manning Thiel. He was a 1961 graduate of Sharon High School and received his Associate Degree in Business at Youngstown State University.

Gary was a sales person of janitorial supplies at OSS in Warren for many years and later was a security guard at the Ohio Corrections retiring in 2013. He was a member of St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church of Hubbard and sang in the choir. Gary was a veteran of the United States Navy serving during the Vietnam War on the USS Belle Grove and was a member of American Legion in Sharon.

He played handball at the Buhl Club in Sharon, was an avid reader, enjoyed gardening and coached and was a referee for youth soccer. His wife, the former Joanne M. Burwig, whom he married April 29, 1972 passed away July 22, 2013. He will be sadly missed by his family: his sons, Gary M. (Tina) Thiel II of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, John C. (Jennifer) Thiel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and three grandchildren, Gary Manning Thiel III, Simone Faye and Addison Avery.

He also leaves his siblings, John Butch Thiel, Jr. of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, Joe (Susan) Thiel of Kirkland, Washington and Susan (Kenneth) Beckman of Largo, Florida. Besides his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife. There will be calling hours on Saturday, May 20, 2017 two hours prior to the Mass from 9:00 11:00 a.m. at St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church.

Gary will be laid to rest at Hubbard Union Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to Hubbard Public Library, 436 West Liberty Street, Hubbard, Ohio 44425. Family and friends are invited to visit the funeral home s website at[1] to share memories and condolences.

Gary M. Thiel ObituaryOrder Flowers Here[2]

A television tribute will air Thursday, May 18 at the following approximate times:
12:25 p.m. WKBN, 6:58 p.m. on MyYTV and 10:37 p.m. FOX plus two additional spots throughout the day.

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The Moving Wall arrives at UNH

Judi Currie [email protected] @CurrieCreative

DURHAM The Moving Wall, a half-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., rolled onto the UNH campus Thursday morning escorted by a motorcycle honor guard. The Moving Wall will be at the University of New Hampshire through Monday as part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the war. Dozens of veterans, from various motorcycle clubs formed the honor guard, including the Patriots Guard Riders, US Marines, Nam Knights, Combat Warriors, and Nam Era Vets.

Three members of the Combat Warriors of New England Rube, Gator and Hawkeye rode down from the Lakes Region to take part.

It is an honor for us to do this, Rube said. Our club has veterans from all different wars but this is special. Hawkeye said he got his nickname because he lost an eye in the war in Vietnam.

I got brothers on that wall, he said. We didn t get what we deserved when we got home. Now 50 years later that is why we do this. Gator said, because of the draft, for many it wasn t their choice to go but they went anyway.

I did 18 months in Vietnam, I escorted a body home, and I was treated like (expletive), Gator said. You only did what your country asked you to do.

Rube said the wall really helps people understand the scope of the Vietnam War because there are more than 58,000 names on it.

It took me five times to the wall in DC before I could go up to it, Rube said. There are more that 200 names from my hometown of Jersey City. The wall is set up on the Great Lawn in front of DeMeritt Hall, visible from Main Street. It will be available for viewing by the public 24 hours a day through Monday. Members of the motorcycle units will also be providing security during the day and UNH ROTC will take the night shifts.

The Moving Wall and honor guard pulled into Durham at 8 a.m. and volunteers began setting up. At 1 p.m. a brief ceremony was held before the wall was officially opened, beginning with the presentation of the colors by the American Legion. UNH President Mark Huddleston said there are many memorials in Washington, D.C. and across the country but none have the impact of the wall.

First, for my generation there was no war that was more polarizing, Huddleston said. Second, there is no other memorial that one stands in front of and reads the names of individuals who died in the war.

Huddleston said it is impossible not to attach a face, or to imagine a life, a family left behind.

We are lucky in America, now most of us don t have direct experience of war … and we need a reminder, Huddleston said. This is a grounding reality I don t think anyone in the audience can go to wall and not know at least one person. Shannon Brown, the Commander of the N.H. State Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the first woman to serve in the post, said the men and women named on the wall are worthy of a far greater recognition for the sacrifices they made and the deeds they performed than just speeches or words or markers.

Back in the day, when the Vietnam veterans came home, there wasn t a welcome home, she said. I think because of what you went through, it made it better for the new generations. We had parades, we didn t have people picketing or spitting on us. Kevin Ridley, of Freemont, came with the Veterans of Vietnam Motorcycle Club. Ridley said he served in the U.S. Air Force.

It is very emotional to see the wall. I know a lot of guys whose names are on the wall, Ridley said. Over there you d talk to a guy in the morning and that afternoon he s dead or in a hospital.

Ridley said the exhibit is important because when he talks to kids today they tell him they spend 15 minutes learning about the Vietnam War in school.

I d do it again if they asked me Ridley said. We want the freedoms in this country I think all the vets here today would say the same thing. Pete Toner, a member of the Patriot Guard, said he began his day at 3 a.m. in South Ackworth, near Keene, he said it was 32 degrees when he got on his motorcycle.

It is one hell of an honor to do it, Toner said. It is also nice to see all at the college acknowledging us instead of being down on us. Denis Desilets, of Claremont, and Les St. Pierre, of Lebanon, are members of the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle group. Their annual ride to Washington, D.C. started 30 years ago with 2,500 bikes and this year they expect one million.

Desilets said the Moving Wall is important to help people understand the magnitude of the loss of more than 58,000 lives.

It opens your eyes to the realization of how many people died for no reason at all, Desilets said. We didn t get a tickertape parade, and we didn t decide to fight, we were told to go. St. Pierre said education is bypassing too much history and making it harder for the country to learn from its mistakes. According to Desilets, Rolling Thunder is working with Vietnam to continue to look for remains of US service members listed as POW or MIA. He said there are 91,000 unaccounted for.

Rochester American Legion Post Commander Bob Talbot, said he and his father, Bob Sr., go to see the wall whenever it comes. He said it is nice to have the Moving Wall because not everyone can get to DC.

Bob Sr. said it is nice to have it on a college campus.

We don t value history as much as we should, he said.

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