District attorneys file injunctions against capital clemency hearings

BATON ROUGE — Wednesday, district attorneys in other parishes have joined the fight against capital clemency hearings.

A week after East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore filed an injunction to stop clemency hearings involving three cases, DAs in Natchitoches, Desoto, Caddo, and Rapides parishes filed injunctions Wednesday.

During a news conference Wednesday, district attorneys from the parishes spoke about their opposition to the potential of death row inmates having their sentences commuted.

Wednesday, Moore provided an update on last week’s filing. He said the injunction will be heard in court on Sept. 28.

“We are prepared to go forward at trial,” Moore said. “We have issued subpoenas. We issued more public records requests for information to find out how we got to where we are, and I believe that after hearing this matter, the judge will have no choice but to rule in our favor and support the injunction to stop these hearings.”

Fifty-six inmates on death row filed applications for clemency to have their sentences reduced to life in prison. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards sent a letter to the state parole board asking for the hearings to be heard.

The board is expected to begin hearing at least 20 capital clemency applications beginning Oct. 13.

Victims’ Families speak out

Vincent family

State Trooper Steven Vincent was killed by Kevin Daigle in 2015 when Vincent responded to a stranded motorist on the side of a rural road in 2015.

As he tried to help an intoxicated Kevin Daigle, Daigle pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and shot Vincent, who died in the hospital.

Calcasieu Parish District Attorney Stephen Dwight said Daigle’s case was the most recent death penalty case that has been tried in Louisiana. They tried the case last summer.

Dwight said Daigle’s case was tried twice, and both times, a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder.

Vincent’s sister, Renae Perry, spoke Wednesday about the pain her family has felt.

“The choice was made by Kevin Daigle to do what he did,” she said. “We did not choose to be here and be put through this with my family. I describe it as having a band-aid that keeps getting ripped off. Every time the wound starts to heal, the band-aid gets ripped off again, and we have to put up with something else because of the choice that Kevin made.”

Another family member said he believes no mercy should be shown to the inmates.

“There’s no reason that him (Daigle) or any of these other people need to keep going through this,” he said. “There’s no mercy for people that have no mercy. These convicted killers don’t care about any of you. They care about themselves. When you think about showing mercy to someone that’s the devil, think twice about it.”

Don Blackston

Blackston family

Don Blackston’s family were victims of a heinous crime in Natchitoches in 1985.

Tracy Lee was a Fort Polk soldier who broke into Blackston’s home in Natchitoches on June 15, 1985 and shot and killed Rohn Blackston, 15.

Lee sexually assaulted Blackston’s mother and sister.

“Thirty-eight years ago, we came victims of a heinous crime by an individual who is now applying for clemency,” Don Blackston said Wednesday. “This individual was judged twice by two separate juries with the same outcome, the death penalty. This has crippled my family in more ways than I can mention. The sentencing, although legally determined, has not been implemented. The Blackston family supports the District Attorney’s Office’s position and action in this matter.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry filed a lawsuit to block the governor from short-circuiting the rules and procedures of the Board of Pardons, according to a news release.

In his court filings, the Attorney General noted that eligibility and notice rules were ignored, timeliness requirements were unlawfully waived, necessary steps in the process were skipped, and proceedings outside of the public eye were conducted when clemency hearings for death row inmates were scheduled.

“The Board of Pardons should not sacrifice the rule of law, the rights of victims, and the public’s participation simply to achieve the governor’s political objective,” Landry said. “The laws on our books must be enforced, and proper procedure must be followed.”

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