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Louisiana Lawmakers Advance Bill to Abolish the Death Penalty

A bill to repeal capital punishment has advanced out of a state Senate committee.
Texas Death Chamber
File - The gurney in the death chamber is shown in this May 27, 2008 file photo from Huntsville, Texas. ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Louisiana Senate committee voted 6-1 Tuesday to advance a bill — sponsored by a lawmaker who cited his Catholic faith — that would repeal the death penalty in the state.

The measure now goes to the state Senate floor, where it's expected to face far more opposition. Were it to pass both houses of the Legislature and be signed into law, Louisiana would join several other states that have abolished capital punishment in the last decade.

The vote came amid national controversy over executions in Arkansas, which put to death two inmates in a single night in a rush to carry out sentences before its lethal injection drugs expire.

Sen. Dan Claitor, a Republican and former prosecutor from Baton Rouge, introduced the bill, which would not be retroactive, meaning the 73 prisoners currently on death row would not get reprieves.

"As a Catholic, I am compelled to act on a moral basis relative to the death penalty. Life, both at the beginning and at the end, must be my primary consideration as a Catholic legislator," Claitor said in a statement earlier this month.

"I take this moral impetus seriously. Unfortunately, currently, the emphasis seems too often to be about ending life at either the beginning and/or the end: the result of this emphasis is a coarsening of our society and humanity to such extent that life itself is devalued."

Louisiana has executed 28 prisoners since 1983, but has not put anyone to death since 2010 because of legal challenges to its lethal injection protocol.

In recent years, as public support for the death penalty has dwindled, states including Connecticut, New Mexico and Illinois have repealed capital punishment. Nebraska lawmakers abolished the death penalty, but voters in the state then went to the ballots to reinstate it.