Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has issued a legal opinion that advises the Louisiana Pardon Board not to hear the clemency applications sent in by 56 death row inmates. Landry said the pardon board has 440 applications to examine before they get to the death row inmates who are hoping Governor Edwards reduces their punishment to life in prison.
“Why are those applications any more important than the 440 that are already in the pipeline and are pending?” asks Landry.
Landry said the Pardon Board’s own rules say that a clemency application should be filed within their last appeal was denied. He said there are emergency circumstances like an execution date, but that doesn’t apply in this situation.
“You have rules out there, and evidently there’s a group of people that believe they always can break them and other people have to follow them," Landry said. “The question is, is that actually the case. There’s a rule in place. You have to follow the rules.”
Executive director of the Capital Appeals Project Cecelia Kappel said Landry’s legal opinion has no binding force on the board. She also said there is a major conflict of interest.
“This Attorney General’s office is directly prosecuting several of or clients that have applied for clemency, and he has also stated in the media that he’s going to oppose any clemency requests,” Kappel pointed out.
Kappel said the pardon board can also waive its rules, including the rule that requests need to be filed within one year after last denied appeal. She said that rule has been waived before in death penalty cases.
“There’s been several death row inmates that have applied for clemency. Not a single one of those applications was kicked out for timeliness, and every one of them was done over a year after direct appeal,” said Kappel.