The vice chairman of the Louisiana House Criminal Justice Committee has introduced a bill that would change who is allowed to witness state-sanctioned executions. House Bill 22 by Rep. Damon Baldone, D-Houma, would delete the requirement that witnesses to death sentence executions must be Louisiana citizens. Presently, there may be no less than five and no more than seven citizen witnesses. Changing the law would allow victims who might live in other states — even though the crime was committed in Louisiana — to witness the final phase of the criminal justice process, Baldone says. In addition to citizen witnesses, state law allows the following persons to be present during an execution:
• The warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, or a competent person selected by the warden;
• The coroner of the parish of West Feliciana, where Angola is located, or his deputy;
• A physician summoned by the warden;
• The operator of the electric chair, who must be a competent electrician with no prior felony convictions and who also must be qualified to administer lethal injections; and
• A priest or minister of the gospel, if requested.
Baldone says the proposal is supported by officials at the state Department of Corrections, which oversees Louisiana prisons. — Alford