Louisiana has the highest rate of incarceration of any state in the USA. The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any nation on Earth, giving Louisiana the distinction of incarcerating more people per capita than any other jurisdiction on the planet.
In Louisiana, all first-degree murder defendants face execution unless a prosecutor explicitly decides otherwise. Of approximately 150 first-degree murder defendants indicted in Louisiana since April 2016, prosecutors have ultimately declined to pursue execution in at least 100. (2017)
Louisiana is one of 32 states with a death penalty. There are 72 people on death row in Louisiana.
In 2005, the Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons struck down the death penalty for juveniles. 22 defendants had been executed for crimes committed as juveniles since 1976.
There were 53 women on death row as of July 1, 2017. This constitutes less than 2% of the total death row population. (NAACP Legal Defense Fund, July 1, 2017). 16 women have been executed since 1976.
A black man is 30 times more likely to be sentenced to death in Louisiana if the victim is a white woman as opposed to another black man.
No white person has been executed in Louisiana for a crime against a black victim since 1752.
In Louisiana, the odds of a death sentence were 97% higher for those whose victim was white than for those whose victim was black. (Pierce & Radelet, Louisiana Law Review, 2011).
Louisiana conducted its last execution in 2010. A federal court has barred the state from carrying out executions since 2014 in part because of difficulties in obtaining the drugs considered humane for lethal injections.
Louisiana leads the nation per capita in exonerations from death row.
Since 2000, seven people on death row in Louisiana had been exonerated, while only two had been executed, according to the Louisiana Budget Project.
Since 1991, 43 individuals have been wrongfully convicted – serving a total of more than 715 years in prison for crimes that they did not commit. Ten of these men were released from death row.
Four out of five death sentences in Louisiana since 1976 have been reversed. And for every three executions the state carried out, one death row prisoner was exonerated.
Since 1976, the state has handed out 241 death sentences. The appeals process takes years, so only 155 cases have been resolved. Of those, 127 have ended in a reversal, often due to errors by judges, misconduct by prosecutors, or “ineffective assistance” by defenders. That’s a rate of 81.9 percent, compared to 72.7 percent nationally.
Since its founding in 2000, the Innocence Project New Orleans has received over 4,000 applications from prisoners seeking representation for non-capital wrongful conviction. IPNO is only able to accept a small fraction of applications. Currently, IPNO is actively investigating or representing 30 clients.
A report by the National Research Council, titled Deterrence and the Death Penalty, stated that studies claiming that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on murder rates are “fundamentally flawed” and should not be used when making policy decisions (2012).
Consistent with previous years, the 2016 FBI Uniform Crime Report showed that the South had the highest murder rate. The South accounts for over 80% of executions. Northeast, which has less than 1% of all executions had the lowers murder rate.
According to a survey of the former and present presidents of the country’s top academic criminological societies, 88% of these experts rejected the notion that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. (Radelet & Lacock, 2009)
A 2009 poll commissioned by DPIC found police chiefs ranked the death penalty last among ways to reduce violent crime. The police chiefs also considered the death penalty the least efficient use of taxpayers’ money.
A 2016 study by the Louisiana Budget Project reported that one-third of the Louisiana Public Defender Board’s annual budget of $33 million was spent on capital cases.
Louisiana is the only state in the nation that funds the majority of its constitutional obligation to provide for the right to counsel from unpredictable and unreliable revenue sources, such as assessments on traffic tickets. There is simply no correlation between the amount of money that may be collected in any local parish and the number of people needing an attorney under the Sixth Amendment in our Bill of Rights.
Nearly every winter, the state’s public defenders run out of money. Last year, 33 of the state’s 42 local indigent defense offices cut staff or placed thousands of poor defendants on a wait list. The New Orleans public defender’s office began refusing clients, leaving hundreds to sit in jail without representation. At least 11 Louisiana defendants facing the death penalty—including five who have already been indicted—have no defense team and may not have one until new money becomes available in July. The list is likely to grow. (2017)
A total of 28 individuals convicted of murder have been executed by the state of Louisiana since 1976. There have been no executions since 2010, but the number of death row inmates has continued to increase.