The Louisiana Board of Pardons rejected clemency hearings for the first five people sentenced to death who submitted applications earlier this month.
The five men and the only woman on the state’s death row were the first hearings to come before the board since Gov. John Bel Edwards, whose term is up at the end of this year, publicly expressed his opposition to the death penalty in May, nola.com reported.
Fifty-six of the 57 people on death row have filed applications asking that their sentences be commuted to life in prison without parole. Still, the board put only 20 on the docket, at Edwards’ request. Edwards cannot act without the board’s recommendation for clemency.
Sister Helen Prejean, a Louisiana native, and the author of Dead Man Walking, a book about her first experience as a spiritual advisor to a man who was executed by Louisiana corrections officials, filed a lawsuit against the state’s parole board earlier this month. Sister Helen accused the board of holding “secret meetings” regarding the clemency applications in violation of the state’s open meetings law, the Deseret News reports.
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Sister Helen explained that she filed the lawsuit “because the meeting was held in violation of the Open Meetings Law, [and] deprived me of a chance to voice my opinion on these life-or-death considerations.” In a second post, she asked the courts “to order openness and transparency in this life-or-death process and let the 56 people on death row have their chance to plead their cases for the clemency of life in prison.”