On January 7, 2020, the state of Louisiana came together at vigils in Baton Rouge and New Orleans to honor 10 years with no executions in Louisiana. Community members and activists gathered to observe the date and demand that Louisiana leadership end the death penalty system once and for all.
The New Orleans vigil was held at Resurrection After Exoneration (RAE), an organization and safe space for Louisiana exonerees. The organization was started by Louisiana Death Row exoneree John Thompson who- after surviving 7 execution dates- passed away in 2017. RAE continues to honor the work and legacy of John Thompson.
Sister Helen Prejean, a death row spiritual adviser, activist, and author of the book Dead Man Walking, spoke along with Laverne Thompson, Louisiana Representative Royce Duplessis, and City Councilmember Jason Williams.
Since its reinstatement in 1976, Louisiana’s death penalty system has been plagued with racism, outrageous error rates, and extremely high costs. With a death row overwhelmingly people of color, and indigent defendants, Louisiana will spend $288 million over the next 18 years trying to execute someone arrested after August 1, 2019. Despite the costs, Louisiana has one of the highest exoneration rates per capita.
With no executions in 10 years, Louisiana has shown that it is losing the appetite for vengeance. We owe our community a safer, healthier, more just solution to the death penalty system.