BATON ROUGE — On Wednesday, September 20, multiple Louisiana District Attorneys will be lodging oppositions to capital clemency hearings in even more cases.
This comes on the heels of East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore filing an injunction last week to stop the clemency hearings for three cases.
The Louisiana Attorney General will join in filing an opposition, as well.
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 will attempt to hear at least 20 capital clemency applications beginning October 13.
“This process violates the “open meetings” law; the statutory requirement that any inmate applicant publish their intention at least three separate times within the jurisdiction of origin before a hearing is set,” according to a news release.
Officials say a single non-capital clemency application generally takes a year to be completed.
“The applicants are attempting to force 50+ capital clemency hearings into a 4-month period,” the news release says. “This process is a direct attack upon and complete disregard for the victims, their families, and the rule of law. The rushed and hurried consideration of these complex and most serious applications introduces chaos and distrust into a deliberate, measured, and trustworthy process.”
After filing the injunction last week, Moore said the process is wrong.
“We knew ahead of time that there were already 440 applications for commutation that had already been set, and their procedures took a minimum of one year, up to two years,” he said. “And now, at this last moment on these June filers for the worst, most heinous violent offenders, for them to be put ahead of 440 other people who are actually eligible to be heard for commutation is wrong.”
Victims’ families speak out
Former NFL player Warrick Dunn and his sister, Summer Smothers, and several others were at last week’s filing. The person who killed Dunn’s mother, Betty Smothers, is among the inmates up for commutation.
Cpl. Betty Smothers was murdered in 1993 while moonlighting off-duty as an escort for a grocery store manager looking to make a night deposit at the bank.
“I’ve been dealing with this for 30 years,” Dunn said. “To receive a letter about commuting sentences for individuals who committed heinous crimes, to me, it’s disrespectful. My mom has been gone for 30 years. She would never be able to meet her grandkids. She missed all the experiences of the things that I’ve done in my life. This guy’s been in prison for 30 years, waking up every day, eating three meals, breathing, and laughing. He’s able to pick up the phone and call his family members. We can’t do that.”