Fifty-one Louisiana death row inmates filed clemency applications Tuesday, asking Gov. John Bel Edwards to reduce their sentences to life in prison. This comes after Edwards asked lawmakers to halt all capital punishment, reports NOLA.com. Edwards' granting the requests would mark a historic turn in Louisiana for the death penalty. Edwards, a Catholic Democrat who comes from a line of sheriffs, has long been silent about his thoughts on the practice. "Looking at these cases collectively makes it clear that the system is fundamentally broken," said Cecelia Kappel of the Capital Appeals Project.
Edwards spokesperson Eric Holl said that applications recommended by the Board of Pardons and Committee on Parole are reviewed "on a case-by-case basis before a final decision is made." A shortage of lethal injection drugs has put a halt to capital punishment in Louisiana; the state last carried out an execution in 2010. Prior to that execution, the state had not put anyone to death since 2002. Attorney General Jeff Landry, an ardent death penalty supporter who is running for governor, said he would oppose the clemency applications as they move through the process. Governors have granted only two clemency requests from death row inmates since Louisiana instated the death penalty in the 1970s. Louisiana newspaper and court records are replete with recent stories of men, often Black, who are sentenced to die, but who have later been found innocent and ordered freed by the courts.