Today, a short-handed, 4-member Louisiana Pardon Board held brief, one-sided “administrative reviews” for five people on death row: James Copeland, Tracy Lee, Larry Roy, Willie Tart, and Michael Taylor. Unlike at a full clemency hearing, the applicants themselves were not present and had no opportunity to speak to the Board or express condolences and remorse to the families. Instead, each side was allowed just 10 minutes to present witnesses and attorney statements. The Board’s divided vote resulted in all five applicants being denied a full clemency hearing, during which they would be able to personally address the Board and answer questions about why their death sentences should be commuted to life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
In June 2023, 56 people on Louisiana’s death row filed clemency applications. Governor Edwards directed the Board to set those cases for clemency hearings, and the Board had scheduled 20 of them for full hearings beginning on October 13, 2023. After a legal attack and back-door deal led by Attorney General Jeff Landry and a group of district attorneys, however, the Board converted the clemency hearings to “administrative reviews.” The Board then announced that these administrative proceedings would be conducted as public meetings during which each side would have a total of 10 minutes to present all arguments in favor of or against holding a full clemency hearing on the case.
Although the Board is calling today's and October 13th's proceedings "administrative reviews," they are an unjust, unprecedented proceeding. The administrative review process is intended only to determine whether the applicant meets the baseline criteria for substantive clemency reviews.
Governor Edwards could still clarify his earlier order, directing the Board to hold substantive hearings for all of the capital clemency applicants before he leaves office.
Below is a statement from Cecelia Kappel, Executive Director of the Louisiana Capital Appeals Project:
"Today we heard the undeniable pain of victims' families, but, because of Attorney General Jeff Landry's improper interference, the applicants were not allowed to be present, address the board and public, and, perhaps most importantly, express their remorse and condolences to the families. These one-sided proceedings serve no one and do no justice, although the lives of 55 individuals on death row hang in the balance."