Vigil in New Orleans observing 10 years since Louisiana’s last execution

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A lethal injection room at an unidentified prison. (File Photo)

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NEW ORLEANS – On Tuesday, January 7, 2020, 10 years will have passed since Louisiana’s last execution. This is the longest interval without an execution since
Louisiana became a state in 1812.

Community members and activists will gather in New Orleans to observe the date, and advocate for an end to Louisiana’s death penalty system.

The vigil will be held at Resurrection After Exoneration (RAE), which was started by Louisiana Death Row exoneree John Thompson who – after surviving seven execution dates – passed away in 2017.

Sister Helen Prejean a death row spiritual adviser, activist, and author of the book Dead Man Walking will be speaking as will Laverne Thompson, John Thompson’s widow.

They will be joined by Louisiana Representative Royce Duplessis and other community and faith leaders.

There will be a performance by the St. Augustine’s Soulful Voices Choir. Resurrection After Exoneration, The Promise of Justice Initiative, LA REPEAL, and Sister Helen Prejean have organized the event.

“We are gathering to acknowledge the advocacy and sacrifice that has brought Louisiana this far and work to end our cruel death penalty once and for all”, says Laverne Thompson.

Since being re-instated in 1976, Louisiana’s death penalty system has been plagued with racial bias, errors, and high costs. 69.6% of Louisiana’s death row are people of color, the highest percentage of any state with more than 3 people on death row.

According to a study released last year, Louisiana will spend $288 million over the next 18 years trying to execute someone arrested after August 1, 2019. Despite the costs – which include appeals, death row operations and other death penalty specific expenses – Louisiana has among the highest exoneration rates per capita with 11 exonerations.

It’s not surprising, then, that approval of the death penalty is plunging nationally and in Louisiana. This is also reflected in the declining number of death sentences being handed down, Louisiana juries did not sentence a single person to death in 2019.

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