With Limited Lethal Drug Access, Louisiana's AG Eyes Firing Squads


The attorney general of Louisiana sent the governor a terse letter this week blaming his administration for the state’s overcrowded death rows.

In response to concerns over the ethics of using existing lethal injection cocktails, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has upheld a moratorium on capital punishment over the past two years.

As The Washington Free Beacon reported, State Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, has been a frequent critic of the policy and is calling on Edwards to support amendments that would allow executions to resume.

One of the specific recommendations involves expanding the availability of the drugs needed to create humane drugs to be used in executions. There are currently strict rules regulating which compounds can be used and in what concentration.

Landry’s proposals would address this issue in two ways. First, he wants to relax those regulations, allowing the use of the drug Midazolam alone without adding hydromorphone as currently mandated.

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Since interstate sales and other regulations hinder access further, he also favors allowing the Department of Corrections to work directly with smaller pharmacies in the state to create the needed compounds.

Among the other proposals in a draft bill attached to Landry’s letter are alternatives to lethal injection including firing squad, electrocution, hanging and nitrogen hypoxia, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Lawmakers in favor of the proposal also recommend expanding the number of drugs that can be used in lethal injection.

The most recent letter details a number of recommended changes to the state law that would allow executions to resume within the state.

Landry’s office released a previous statement confirming that he sent Edwards another letter on the topic earlier this month. At that time, he confirmed his office would play no further role in an ongoing federal lawsuit over the constitutionality of lethal injection drugs being used in Louisiana.

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“After attempting numerous times to work with Governor Edwards and the Department of Corrections (DOC) and witnessing a lack of commitment by both to proceed in death row executions, Attorney General Jeff Landry today stated he has ordered his office to withdraw from further representing the DOC in Hoffman v. Jindal – the pending constitutional challenge to the 3-drug execution protocol,” the July 18 statement revealed.

The attorney general then explained his motivation for the decision.

“This action comes after a move by Governor Edwards and the DOC to file a stay delaying all executions for another year,” the statement read. “In a letter to Governor Edwards, General Landry makes it clear that his decision was in an effort to respect the families of crime victims and to reaffirm his commitment to fighting for justice.”

His more recent letter sought clarification of the governor’s position in addition to prescribed solutions allowing both parties to move toward resuming executions.

As KALB reported, Edwards’ office released a response to Landry’s latest letter.

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In his letter, spokesman Richard Carbo reiterated the governor’s position “that current law, not the governor,” is responsible for restrictions that have prevented executions for the past eight years.

He also criticized Landry’s decision to withdraw from the ongoing legal battle.

“Quitting the very lawsuit that was meant to bring justice for these families was never the answer, so his commitment to re-engage is welcome news,” Carbo wrote.

The letter went on to call out Landry for airing the disagreement publicly and claimed his office “has not offered a single bill” to address the issue since 2016.

“We will review his suggestions and hope to re-start a constructive dialogue,” Carbo wrote.

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Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
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