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DA says state is rushing clemency requests for the 'worst of the worst' on death row

7 months 1 week 4 days ago Thursday, July 13 2023 Jul 13, 2023 July 13, 2023 5:30 PM July 13, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - The East Baton Rouge District Attorney says a recent movement to commute the sentences of more than 50 death row inmates in Louisiana — and to expedite the process before the end of Governor John Bel Edwards' term — is needlessly putting prosecutors across the state in a bind.

DA Hillar Moore responded to the recent outpouring of requests from those inmates in a lengthy letter where he also requests public records relative to the state parole board's consideration of those cases. 

Moore says once the petitions were filed, the parole board started scheduling the hearings almost immediately. The first being at the end of this month. Essentially cutting the line of 400 plus other petitioners.

"If they followed the rules, these people would not have the chance by there own rules, as it's always been interpreted, to even have a chance to go before the parole board before next year. They want it this year because they believe their chances of being commuted by this governor are high," he said. 

In the document shared with WBRZ on Wednesday, Moore questions the "extremely accelerated" commutation process for those inmates — including several in East Baton Rouge —  to have their requests considered before the end of Edwards' last term as governor on Jan. 8, 2024. 

"Based on my current information, the applications are not applications for stay or reprieve from execution. In fact, to my knowledge, none of the applicants have a scheduled date of execution at this time," Moore explained. 

He argues that rushing the process is not only unfair to prosecutors, who have to prepare arguments, but that it also blindsided the families of victims. 

"To several of the victims' families, the news of the applications came as a shock and has caused significant confusion, particularly in light of the associated media exposure."

Governor John Bel Edwards' office sent a statement emphasizing the separation of the parole board and the governor's decisions.

"While members of the board are appointed by the governor, his expectation is and has always been that members exercise their own, independent judgment in evaluating applications," the statement read in part.

But Moore says they are jumping the gun and that these death row inmates shouldn't even be eligible for a hearing.

"The law requires that they be certified with a death date before the parole board can hear it and the Governor take action. So why are they hearing these when there is no such date?"

There are 11 death row inmates from EBR parish. They include Henri Broadway, who was convicted of killing BRPD officer Betty Smothers, and Anthony Bell, who killed his wife and her four relatives outside of a church.

"These are the worst of the worst type of murderers you could have."

The first hearing is July 28 for David Bowie, a Baton Rouge man convicted of strangling his friend in 1997.  Moore says they plan to file an objection next week. 

You can read the DA's full response here.

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