AG Landry Blames Governor For Halt In Executions
Louisiana's Democratic governor and Republican attorney general traded barbs Wednesday over the recent extension of a court order prohibiting the state from carrying out any death sentences.
Attorney General Jeff Landry said in a statement that his office is withdrawing from defending Louisiana's corrections department against a lawsuit challenging its lethal injection protocols.
Landry made the announcement two days after a federal judge approved a one-year extension to an order barring Louisiana from carrying out any death sentences. An attorney for the corrections department asked for the extension.
Landry wrote to Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday, accusing him of being a worse obstacle to carrying out executions than a national drug shortage for lethal injections. In response, Edwards accused Landry of political grandstanding and abdicating his duties as the state's top law enforcement officer.
The federal court's order has blocked Louisiana from carrying out any death sentences since 2014. Its last execution was in 2010.
The dispute is the latest in a string of clashes between the two statewide elected officials since both took office in 2016, more than three years after the death penalty lawsuit was filed.
Landry is seen as a possible challenger to Edwards in the 2019 election. The two men have clashed over finances, contracting plans, criminal justice laws, LGBT rights, and more broadly, their constitutional roles.
On his monthly radio show, Edwards said Landry hasn't tried to contact him about the execution concerns.
"I'm hopeful I can visit with the attorney general and find out exactly what his concerns are because I don't understand the letter that he has sent today," he said.
Drug shortages have forced Louisiana's corrections department to rewrite its execution plan several times since 2010. Under the current execution protocols, the state's primary method is a single-drug injection of pentobarbital, a powerful sedative. The alternative method is a two-drug combination of the painkiller hydromorphone and the sedative midazolam. The corrections department has none of those drugs in its inventory, according to department spokesman Ken Pastorick.
Edwards said Louisiana law prescribes a lethal injection method of execution that the state can't carry out.
"We're just not capable of executing someone in accordance with the law," the Democratic governor said. "The facts haven't changed."
Landry said in his letter to the governor that the corrections department could use a single drug, pentobarbital, to carry out executions. Texas, Georgia, and Missouri have used doses of the same drug in executions, Landry noted.
"However, I discovered the biggest obstacle to getting justice for our State's crime victims was neither the federal case nor the difficulty obtaining drugs; it has and continues to be your unwillingness to proceed with any executions,' Landry wrote.
In a court filing July 11, an attorney representing the corrections department said litigating the case now would be "a waste of resources and time." Jeffrey Cody, the state's lawyer, asked U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick to extend the court-ordered halt in executions for one additional year "because the facts and issues involved in this proceeding continue to be in a fluid state."
Two attorneys from Landry's office, Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill and Assistant Attorney General David Sanders, formally asked the court for permission to withdraw from the lawsuit on Tuesday.
Dick's order on Monday suspends the litigation through at least July 18, 2019.
Louisiana has 71 inmates on death row. The state's last execution was in January 2010, when prison officials put to death Gerald Bordelon, who was convicted of killing his 12-year-old stepdaughter in 2002.