Lawmakers pass proposal to expand execution methods

BATON ROUGE – State lawmakers concluded the special session on Thursday by giving final approval to a series of changes in crime laws, notably expanding the methods of execution in Louisiana.

On Thursday, the Senate approved HB 6, which broadens the spectrum of execution methods in Louisiana to include electrocution and nitrogen hypoxia.

The Senate floor’s discussion on Thursday commenced with the death penalty bill, subsequently passed back to the House with amendments.

As of now, 58 inmates are on death row in Louisiana, with the last execution taking place in 2010.

This legislation follows recent executions in Texas and a failed attempt in Idaho, both involving lethal injection.

According to the bill, lethal injection remains the preferred method, but the ultimate decision lies with the head of Louisiana’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

“Through our proposed legislation, we intend to keep our word to the victims of these awful crimes and deliver the swift and certain justice that they were promised so long ago,” Sen. Caleb Kleinpeter, R-Port Allen, said.

Kleinpeter proposed an amendment, subsequently adopted, which mandates the state inspector general to review and certify the acquisition process for drugs, medical supplies, and medical equipment used in executions.

Lawmakers emphasized that the debate was not centered on whether the death penalty should exist in Louisiana but rather focused on the manner in which it is carried out.

“We are not debating if the death penalty is right or wrong,” said Democratic Sen. Katrina Jackson-Andrews. “We are debating how far we will go to kill a man. That’s what we’re debating today. It seems like we’re debating something that’s not even on this floor.”

Eight states currently allow electrocutions, and seven states have lethal injection as the primary method, according to the non-profit organization Death Penalty Information Center. 

Some legislators spoke against the bill, citing religious and constitutional concerns. Some referenced victim’s families that oppose the new methods.

“This is not as clear cut as some want it to be,” Sen. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans. “There are many victims who don’t believe that the state has the right or that this is any form of justice. I’ve never personally believed that the death penalty honors victims.”

Duplessis offered an amendment to strike the use of nitrogen hypoxia due to its use during the Holocaust by Nazi Germany. The amendment was rejected. 

Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, said the death penalty is law, but she opposes the proposed methods.

“Everything that’s been proposed is really inhumane,” she said. 

Other legislators spoke in support of the bill, citing religion and arguing for victims’ families in favor of the methods. 

“It’s our sin that separates us from the holy God, and an unborn child has committed none,” Sen. Adam Bass, R-Bossier City, said. “The people who are on death row that we’re talking about have committed some of the most heinous crimes imaginable.”

The proposed bill passed in the Senate 24-15.

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