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Communist Vietnam's secret death penalty conveyor belt: How country trails only China and Iran for 'astonishing' number of executions

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Prisoners are dragged from their cells at 4am without warning to be given a lethal injection Vietnam's use of the death penalty has been thrust into the spotlight after a real estate tycoon was on Thursday sentenced to be executed in one of the biggest corruption cases in the country's history. Truong My Lan, a businesswoman who chaired a sprawling company that developed luxury apartments, hotels, offices and shopping malls, was arrested in 2022.

Louisiana governor signs bills to expand death penalty, eliminate parole

The governor also signed bills that eliminate parole for adults who commit crimes after Aug. 1 and dramatically cut the availability of good behavior credits in prison

NEW ORLEANS — Gov. Jeff Landry signed into law Tuesday a bill allowing executions by nitrogen gas and electrocution, opening the door for Louisiana to revive capital punishment 14 years after it last used its death chamber.

Landry signed the legislation, House Bill 6, and 10 other bills into law while surrounded by crime victims’ loved ones and law enforcement officials in a ceremony at the State Capitol. HB 6 also shrouds records of the state’s procurement of lethal injection drugs in secrecy, a step supporters say will make it easier to obtain those drugs.

The death penalty bill headlined a slate of tough-on-crime legislation approved by the Republican-controlled state Legislature last month and championed by Landry, a Republican and former state attorney general who campaigned on a promise to punish criminals and uplift people affected by violent crime. The new laws reverse a path charted by the state’s 2017 Justice Reinvestment Initiative by slashing chances for convicted criminals to be released from prison early and lengthening sentences for some crimes.

“This is what I ran on,” Landry said Tuesday.

The governor also signed bills that allow people to carry concealed handguns without permits, eliminate parole for adults who commit crimes after Aug. 1, dramatically cut the availability of good behavior credits in prison and limit how people can request plea deals after their convictions, among others.

Landry is expected to sign additional bills passed in last month’s special session in New Orleans on Wednesday, including measures to publish court minutes for youth accused of violent crimes, increase penalties for carjacking and weapons offenses and give Landry more control over the state’s public defense system.

Protests against that legislation — particularly the death penalty bill, which opponents caution promotes one method that has hardly been tested and another ruled inhumane by courts in some states — spurred fiery debate but did little to sway lawmakers, most of whom fell in line with Landry’s agenda.

A series of criminal justice advocacy groups spoke out against the new laws again on Monday, saying they will do little to curb crime and risk bloating the state’s prison population to pre-2017 levels.

The 2017 public safety laws, which drew bipartisan backing and support from law enforcement, released people with convictions for nonviolent crimes and saved the state some $153 million, a recent audit found.

“Blaming the wrong problems doesn’t get the right solutions, and our communities for years have made clear the solutions necessary to address the very real concerns and needs of all Louisianans,” said Danny Engelberg, the chief public defender in New Orleans. “These misguided bills will balloon our already bloated legal system, jails and prison system, and further widen the inequities in justice, safety, and community well-being.”

The first modern execution by nitrogen gas occurred in Alabama in January. It sparked pushback from anti-death penalty advocates who expressed concern about eyewitness reports that Kenneth Smith, who was put to death for a 1988 murder-for-hire, writhed and struggled for air for some 20 minutes after nitrogen began flowing into his mouth. Alabama officials said the execution was humane and offered to aid other states’ efforts to put the method to use.

Difficulty obtaining the cocktail of execution drugs from pharmaceutical firms, along with former Gov. John Bel Edwards’ opposition to capital punishment and a series of federal court orders pausing executions in recent years, had kept Louisiana from putting anyone to death since 2010.

It’s unclear when state officials might begin taking steps to obtain materials needed to carry out executions or when executions could resume in Louisiana. Also unclear is which of the three execution options the state will use; the new law leaves that choice to the secretary of the state’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

HB 6’s sponsor, Rep. Nicholas Muscarello, R- Hammond, said in an interview last month that Landry has indicated that his preferred execution method is lethal injection.

Last week, a DPSC spokesperson referred questions about the death penalty process to Landry’s office, which did not respond to requests for comment. Landry left Tuesday’s bill-signing ceremony without taking questions from reporters.

The new law letting people carry concealed handguns without permits, which supporters dub “constitutional carry” because they argue it restores an absolute right to self-armament enshrined in the United States’ founding document, drew applause from gun rights activists and condemnation from gun safety groups.

National Rifle Association Interim CEO Andrew Arulanandam in a statement praised the “resolve” of Landry and “pro-self-defense legislators” who voted for the new law. Angelle Bradford, a volunteer for the Louisiana chapter of the pro-gun control group Moms Demand Action, criticized Landry for “cater(ing) to the gun lobby and reinforc(ing) their deadly ‘guns everywhere’ agenda.

Source: The Times-Picayune, Staff, March 6, 2024

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