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Louisiana Governor Urges State Lawmakers to Abolish Death Penalty

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana attends a July 27 event sponsored by the Democrats for Life of America in Philadelphia. the group honored the Catholic governor with its Governor Casey Whole Life Leadership Award for his commitment to protecting the lives of the unborn. (CNS photo)

WASHINGTON — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards called on state legislators to do away with the death penalty in his April 10 address opening the spring legislative session in Baton Rouge.

“Our criminal justice system is far from perfect. It is wholly inconsistent with Louisiana’s pro-life values, as it quite literally promotes death,” said the Catholic Democrat who is term-limited and cannot run for governor again. 

This is the first time since becoming governor in 2016 that he has mentioned abolishing capital punishment. Louisiana is one of 27 states that still have this practice, although no one has been executed in the state since 2010.

State Rep. Kyle Green, a Democrat, initiated the discussion this year to end capital punishment by filing a bill in late March to abolish the death penalty. He also did this in 2020 and 2022.

In an April 10 tweet, Edwards echoed his State of the State message, saying: “The death penalty doesn’t deter crime; it isn’t necessary for public safety; and it is wholly inconsistent with Louisiana’s pro-life values as it quite literally promotes a culture of death. For these reasons, I support @RepKyleGreen’s bill to abolish the death penalty.”

After the governor’s endorsement of this measure, Catholic Mobilizing Network, a group working to end the death penalty, tweeted that his support “could be what the state needs to end the death penalty once and for all.”

Green’s proposed bill calls for death row inmates to be given a life sentence without parole, and it would not be retroactive.

He told a reporter he felt compelled to bring this issue back to the legislators and would continue to do so “until we can convince our colleagues that this is not the best version of who we are.”

“This state time and time again has affirmed the sanctity of life,” he said, referring to its abortion restrictions, and added that as a Christian, he could not “sit back and not try to repeal” capital punishment.

Last year, anti-death penalty advocates, including Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph and Louisiana native, joined with students and other faith leaders at the state capitol to support the failed measure to end the death penalty.

“We need to be a real pro-life state. No matter how grave the crime, we can’t entrust the government with the ability to take lives,” Sister Prejean told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser.