Decrying the state’s ranking of the highest incarceration rate in the nation, Governor John Bel Edwards pushed through the legislature a package of “criminal justice reform” bills that allowed over 2,000 felons to be released from state prisons. Unfortunately, approximately 30% of those felons released from prison returned to criminal activity, including six who have been accused of murder.
When a heinous crime like murder occurs, the killer should receive a quick trial and, if convicted, there should be a swift execution. Unfortunately, in Louisiana, executions no longer occur, even though it is still allowed by state law. It has been nine years since Louisiana executed a prisoner on death row.
Some family members of victims have been waiting for over thirty years for justice. According to Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, “for those of us that revere in the rule of law and believe in justice, this is unacceptable.” Yesterday, Landry joined family members of victims at a meeting of the House Criminal Justice Committee to denounce what he labeled “a major problem in our criminal justice system.”
Some states are still executing murderers. In fact, last year, 22 executions occurred across the country. In Louisiana, the only form of execution currently allowed is lethal injection. With pharmaceutical companies refusing to supply the state with the needed drugs, executions are at a standstill. Clearly, the legislature should allow other forms of execution, such as firing squad, electric chair, etc.
The roadblock to passing effective legislation regarding capital punishment is Governor John Bel Edwards. He has not stated his position on the issue, but has opposed legalizing any methods of execution other than lethal injection. He said, “I’m not inclined to go back to methods that have been discarded because popular sentiment turned against them.”
Thus, Edwards is playing politics with the issue and gauging public support for methods of execution. His opponents in the Governor’s race need to make this a very prominent issue in their campaigns. While the Governor is concerned about “popular sentiment” regarding how to treat killers, his opponents need to tap into “popular sentiment” regarding how to treat victims and their families.
In the view of some family members of victims, Edwards has not taken effective action on the issue. In 1985, the daughter of Wayne Guzzardo was killed in a robbery. Guzzardo believes that Edwards has “never been transparent for us victims, never, and always pulling something we don’t know anything about and where’s the justice for my daughter and the rest of these victims? It’s ridiculous.”
Guzzardo and the other family members of victims deserve justice. While advocates for criminal justice reform show concern about the pain and suffering of murderers who are set to be executed, there seems to be very little concern about how these decades of delays have impacted the family members of victims.
Since Governor Edwards does not care about this issue; it is time the voters of Louisiana learned about his true priorities. It is crucial that Louisiana voters elect politicians at all levels of state government, who will dedicate attention and resources to protecting innocent citizens and giving much-needed justice to family members of victims, who have been waiting decades for a Governor and a legislature to care about them.
Jeff Crouere is a native New Orleanian and his award winning program, “Ringside Politics,” airs locally at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and at 10:00 p.m. Sundays on PBS affiliate WLAE-TV, Channel 32, and from 7-11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990-AM & www.Wgso.com. He is a political columnist, the author of America's Last Chance and provides regular commentaries on the Jeff Crouere YouTube channel and on www.JeffCrouere.com. For more information, email him at [email protected]