The Louisiana Board of Pardons voted Friday against granting clemency hearings to five Louisiana death row prisoners, ending a monthslong effort to spare the lives of more than 50 people condemned to death, reports the Louisiana Illuminator. Over four hours, the four-member panel in Baton Rouge heard impassioned testimony from attorneys, still-grieving families of murder victims and from friends and relatives of the prisoners. The board split its vote 2-2 in four cases, leading to denials. The board denied a fifth case — Winthrop Earl Eaton, convicted in the 1985 killing of Monroe pastor Rev. Lea Joyner — in a 3-1 vote.
Initial plans to hold clemency hearings — and vote on whether to commute’ sentences from death to life — at Friday’s meeting were derailed after Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and several parish district attorneys sued the board. Under a settlement agreement, rather than voting on whether to commute, the panel met to consider whether allow them to have their cases heard at a future hearing. There are no plans to consider an additional 51 clemency requests, despite Gov. John Bel Edwards’ support of hearings for all 56 death row prisoners who applied. Edwards, who, as governor, makes the final decision on recommendations from the board, started up a political storm this year when he stated his opposition to the death penalty. Landry, who won the election for governor on Saturday, has expressed his desire to move forward with the executions of those on death row, something that hasn’t happened since 2010 due to a shortage of lethal injection drugs.