Louisiana. Constitutional Convention (1973).

Records of the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1973 (Volume 6) online

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der he is eligible for parole in ten years and six

and rob you or any person who would arm himself with
a dangerous weapon and enter into a residence will
kill you if the circumstances arise where he thinks
that is what he ought to do. Now we could get into
a big long discussion on the administration of the
criminal laws. I have my own ideas. I think that
the greatest thing we could do to stop crime in this
country would be to expedite and make more efficient
our judicial processes so that a man is charged and
tried and sentenced and put in the penitentiary
without a lot of monkey business and delay and once
he is in the penitentiary and has been legally con-
victed that he is not let out on some technicality.
But, this has got absolutely nothing to do with that.
This is what we went through for some two hours I be-
lieve yesterday. This amendment, if it is adopted,
contains within it all of the objections and all of
the fallacies that were contained in the amendment
yesterday, that we voted down. I am not going to
waste a lot of your time but I just want to point
out to you that there is no restriction on the leg-
islature as to what crimes it can provide will be
punishable by life imprisonment. They can add to
that list armed robbery, they can add to that list
burglary, they can add to that list any crime that
they want to. So this amendment puts us right back
where we were yesterday and while I feel as I do
towards crime and while I feel as I do toward cer-
tain most heinous offenses, I recognize and I think
any reasonable man must recognize, that whenever
you establish a system that is administered by human
beings that you leave room for human error, and
people make mistakes. Judges make mistakes, juries
make mistakes, we all make mistakes. The only thing
I am asking you is to recognize that fact and to
provide a check on us for the mistakes that may and
will and undoubtedly are going to be made. Don't
lock the door and throw away the key, because some-
times a mistake is made and if you leave this to
the legislature there is no check on what will be
done. The power of executive clemency is tradition-
ally invested in the executive under our system of

Mr. A. Jacks

Further Discu

r. Chairman, fellow delegates, I
rise against this amendment and I do so because we
are writing a constitution for the people of this
state that I hope will last for some time. I do
not believe that it is in the interest of the people
of this state for us to put this sort of restrictive
language in the constitution that will throw us back
in what I consider the dark days of being able to
reform our system of justice and our penal system
in this state. Now I think that we need to address
ourselves to the simple question. The question is
how we are going to effectuate penal reform and how
we are going to change the system of justice in this
state. I do not believe that we need to put this
kind of language in the constitution that would have
the result of preventing us from making some of the
changes that are so sorely needed. I think the past
amendment that we have just adopted, the Jack Amend-
ment, is a step in the right direction because it
establishes for the first time what I believe will
be a board constituted of individuals who have some
expertise, some knowledge in the whole area of penal
reform, that will look at the sociological and en-
vironmental problems connected with the crimes com-
mitted and will make recommendations based on in-
dividuals growing out of their expertise and growing
out of their knowledge and studies. 1 do believe
that this will throw us in the dark days as it re-
lates to penal reform. I have heard a lot of ref-
erences being made to Act III. Mr. Triche was right
when he said that the legislature is a political
body. I tell you delegates to this convention that
all of the death penalty bills that are now acts in
this state were political decisions. All of them
were political decisions that will be made by the
legislature next year and the year after and ten
years from today that relate to emotional issues
growing out of the environmental conditions and
the emotional conditions of that day will be politi-
cal decisions. We are dealing with human lives.
We are presuming that the human life is precious.


ig guilty

IS going

)h, just

int to do

:, and the

1 sentence

^our family

have to

■ and that

It. Four

iee me cry-

26th Days Proceedings — August 4, 1973

that we ought to believe in the ability of men to available to prevent miscarriages of justice and
be rehabilitated. I do not believe that this is in also to allow for clemency and mercy. Mr. Burson
the interest of penal reform. I do not believe ^^^ suggested to us that nobody can recall circum-
that this allows for the fact that men have their stances and instances where miscarriages of justice
weaknesses, that men will make errors. Just last have taken place and the benefit of pardon has re-
week, I talked to a man who served forty-five years lieved the miscarriage of justice. I would suspect
in a Texas prison for a crime he never committed 'hat many, many lawyers sitting in this audience
and nobody has ever given him any consideration. who have practiced criminal law have had experiences
They admit that they made a mistake. I call upon a"d I know I did. I recall when I was a young man
you ladies and gentlemen, the delegates of this Ju5t beginning to practice law, a family came to
convention, not to restrict this constitution, not see me about a young black boy who was in prison in
to throw us back in the dark days, but to recognize the state penitentiary for a sentence of twelve
when we talk about serious crimes, when we talk years. He was innocent. Do you know how he got
about the heinous crimes of today that we need to to the penitentiary? After he had been incarcerated
look not only at the individual committing this i" the parish jail for about two months awaiting
crime but we need to look at all of the social and trial because he couldn't post bond, somebody in
economic factors leading up to what is happening that jailhouse had talked him into pleadir
in this country today. We ought to be concerned to a crime he did not commit because he wc
about reforming the whole system of justice and the to get a thirty-day suspended sentence. C
whole penal institution rather than place this kind go into court and plead guilty. All we wi
of restrictive language in the constitution so I i5 clean up our books and clean our docket
urge you to vote against this amendment because we judge will give you a thirty-day suspendec
have made a giant step forward by way of the Jack and you will go home, young fellow. And j
Amendment. won't have to hire a lawyer and you won't

trouble the folks, and it will be all over

Further Discussion is the easiest and quickets way to handle

or five years later, his parents came to s
Mr. Triche Mr. Speaker and ladies and gentlemen i"g to get that boy out of the penitentiary. We
of the convention, I rise in opposition to this viere able to convince everybody involved that he
amendment. It is essentially the same amendment as hand't committed the crime and we were able to get
offered by Mr. Burson yesterday which this conven- clemency for him and pardon that young man and put
tion rejected and it seems to me that we would be "i"! on the street. Now that is one of the several
a lot better off if these snakes would stay dead instances that I am aware of and I know that all of
once we killed them, but they seem to have a way you gentlemen who have had experience in the crimi-
of coming back. This amendment provides that the nal courts are aware of similar circumstances. Gen-
legislature may restrict and limit by law the power tlemen, innocent people do get convicted. Innocent
of the governor to grant pardons for crimes punish- people do plead guilty. Innocent people do end up
able by life imprisonment. Now gentlemen for seri- '" the penitentiary. In addition to that, gentle-
ious crimes we are in effect limiting the executive '"^"> people who do commit crimes and who are justly
power to grant pardons by allowing the legislature sentences after fair and impartial trials, do re-
to restrict the power to pardon. Of course we give cant, are rehabilitated, and are entitled to execu-
the legislature - it has the inherent right to define tive clemency and mercy. All of us believe that,
crimes and prescribe penalties. I would suspect aid we ought not to deny it. I - ' '^
that if this passes and if the legislature acts in the danger of this amendment is
the future as it has done in the past out of extreme of passion in response to some Y
emotion and reaction to immediate problems that the public and all of us abhor,
arise at the time, we are going to have a great deal going to pass law after law afte
of crimes described by the legislature, prescribing imprisonment without benefit of
penalties of life imprisonment without benefit of hot to do that,
pardon and I don't think that is what we want to do.

I don't think that's what we want to do because you Further Discussic

you must first remember and I ask you to please
consider that the right to pardon is an executive
function, it has been historically and traditiona
ly, it is founded on clemency. Pardon is clemenc,
granted by the chief executive and it should not
embroiled in the legislative process and it shoul
not be embroiled in the lawmaking process. The 1
islature ladies and gentlemen, yes, acts responsi
bly. Yes, it acts politically. I have no problei

with that. The legislature also acts emotionally mind ladies and gentlemen, we no longer have the

and reacts as people often do to circumstances of death penalty in the state of Louisiana, so what

the present day. We just need to go back a few we in effect are talking about is the life imprison-

months ago to when the legislature was in session '"^nt sentence almost has to take the place of the

only this summer, in the fiscal session, to consider death sentence. Now when you stop to consider, if

only fiscal matters. As a result of one or two you read the papers, you don't have to take my word

heinous crimes committed in the city of New Orleans for it, when you read of all these murders and rapes

we spent most of the thirty-day fiscal session try- and armed robberies and mass murders and all of the

ing to revamp our juvenile laws. It wasn't until extreme crimes, I would say the vast majority of

the legislature got home and the governor was able them are committed by ex-convicts, by convicts out

to consider these matters seriously and with due de- o" parole, by convicts out on reprieve. They are

liberation that he decided to... the ones on the street because of the system we

have and if we don't adopt this along with the one

let me we J"St adopted it is going to be not only a contin-

riche. uation of it but it is going to be a growth and ex-
pansion of it, and I say that for this reason. It

Mr. Triche And if you recall, the main bill in is accepted and has been accepted in criminal cir-

that package to revamp our juvenile laws had to t^les ever since I can remember that a criminal or

be vetoed by the governor because it was contrary potential criminal operates on three theories:

to our constitution and because it infringed upon that he is smarter than the other criminals, he has

the jurisdiction of our court system. The only devised a way by where he can commit this aggravated

point I want to make here is that the legislature robbery and he is not going to be caught, detected

responds to emotion and responds to immediate cir- and picked up by the law. Two, if he is caught and

cumstances as they exist and I don't think that is apprehended, he has figured out a way where he is

what we want to have the power of executive clemency going to beat the rap, he is going to beat the case

subjected to. Executive clemency should always be in court by the employment of a good lawyer, by


Mr. Burns

Mr. Chairman,


low delegates, 1


enjoy Mr.
one except
that wouldi

Friche's speeches ai
that last dramatic
told you about but

T't be affected by

nd I enjoyed thi:
incident that h(
it just happens

this amendment.

s lasi

^ so

amendment i
I think it

Dnly refers to the
is very necessary
that we just passed

life imprisonmen
in connection wi
. Now bear this

t and
th th(

26th Days Proceedings— August 4, 1973

working up some good witnesses. Three, and this is would like to say to you I have not been in govern-
where this amendment comes into the picture, if he ment, but I am not ashamed to say that I am a pol-
is caught and if he is convicted and if he is sen- itician. I know where I came from and I know who
tences, that he has good connections and he has ev- sent me, I am going to say to you today many years
ery reason to believe that he is only going to stay ago we had cities which were destroyed because the
in there for a few months no matter how serious the government had become so rotten - des troyed . Today
commission of the crime or how serious the penalty. we are facing all sorts of famines, the flood wa-
Now, all this does ladies and gentlemen is if a ters, pollution and things like that. Let us not
person is convicted, he ordinarily in some cases sink our state and our nation because we do not want
would have received the death penalty, of course in to forgive others as God so forgives us each day.
Louisiana he would never have been executed accord- Thank you. I urge you to defeat this amendment,
ing to past records, but he could have received the

death penalty. Well he can't do that any more so Further Discussion
he receives the most serious penalty he can get un-
der our present laws, life imprisonment. All this Mr. Jack I rise to oppose this amendment. We have
does is to give the legislature the right and the discussed it backwards and forwards. Now, you have
authority that in that one instance they can pass a got to have trust in your machinery that you set
law providing when a man has been sentenced for life up in your government. Different people. say certain
that they can provide by act of the legislature that things can't happen but they can. The assumption
he has to serve twenty years, we will say. I just under the Burson Amendment is that the legislature
say twenty years, they could say fifteen. As one would pass the law where you were serving a life
of the previous speakers told you under our present sentence you could never get out of the penitentia-
law he could get out in ten. Well, I thought he ry . Now, if the legislature passed such a law and
could get out in seven. All in the world this does the Burson Amendment passed, then that is correct,
is empower the legislature in that one case, not all it could be a seventeen year old boy or girl with
these other cases such as the one my good friend, a life sentence would stay down there eternally
Mr. Triche, just told you about, is in that one case as far as the pardon board ever trying to give them
that they can pass an act of the legislature putting any relief. It would be cutoff. That is correct
some teeth into it where the public, the aggrieved and anybody says otherwise I wish they would talk
ones, the families of the one who has been murdered to me before they make that statement. The next
and the families of the daughter who has been raped thing, I do not see how the Supreme Court of the
will have the satisfaction of knowing that when that United States, right or wrong, under their deci-
guilty person goes to the pen for life that he is sions, they would uphold such a law. You would not
going to have to stay there for at least twenty have uniformity of the law. Just like in the death
years and not be walking the streets within six sentence. Now I repeat again I believe in the death
months raping other people's daughters, breaking sentence in the proper case but the Supreme Court

;er wt

10 has been



ing that wh£

;n that

for ■

1 ife that hs

! i s

ir at

least twent


■ treets within si


:ers, break!


led w-

ith pistols,

, and

it on'

ly right anc

1 pro-

where it means

lu are going to i


iho are either gc


or ar

-e going to


into other people's houses armed with pistols, and held that unconstitutional because of

other things. I think it's not only right and pro- uniformly applied. If the legislature passed a law

per to put some teeth into the law where it means that resulted in the life sentence not being uni-

something, but 1 think that you are going to find formly applied that would be held unconstitutional

that the people are the ones who are either going by the Supreme Court of the United States. Now

to demand something like that or are going to be listen to this "if". If you had the Burson Amend-

Further Disc

passed and the legislature passed a law under



ment here saying that


a person

a life


nee the jury, or the :



d say

that person can not get out

in f

ifty year!

!ver ge

t out.

Then you would have



•t of tl

he Uni

ted States say that is unci


lal for


reason; we looked at (

that ,

and we

1 that

if the

person was al lowed to pie,

ad guilty

ife imi


ment by the consent o1

f the


Mrs. Warren Mr. Chairman and fellow delegates,
when Mr. Burson was speaking I said, "Oh well, this
might do". I was kind of caught between two opin-
ions and then I began to think. Then I got a little

Burson mentioned that he wished someone would give attorney with the stipulation that there would not
some facts. I think that Mr. Burson said, or one be anything tacked on to that life sentence, like
speaker said - I don't want to accuse anybody of any- never subject to commutation or that it meant his
thing they didn't say - that the newspaper gave natural life or it meant fifty years, then that
accounts of what was going on. About two years ago would be discrimination from what a jury might say
there was an article appeared in the Times Picayune if that person took their day in court. The Supreme
concerning a man who had been sent to prison for Court of the United States would say a person has
life and who had served fifteen years. When the their right to their day in court, and that person
attorney, an elderly man, got ready to die, he could who took his right say showed up with a verdict of
not live with his conscience so he called his son the jury, life without ever any commutation served
and another attorney who had worked along on this until they are dead, dead, dead. Then the Supreme
case and called in the proper authorities and said Court will have evidence in other cases where people
"We railroaded this man to jail and I've got to pled guilty with the consent of the district attor-
tell you before I die". If he had lived fifteen ney that the judge didn't tack on anything, then
or thirty years longer, just imagine how long this they would say that the law is not uniformly being
man would have stayed in jail. There was an account applied. Historically, executive clemency has bee.T
in the Times Picayune concerning a judge's son who like this and that is the only way you can do it
had run into difficulty with the law and he said he property. I say that if we pass this amendment we
had sentenced many but he had come to face the same are just doing it emotionally. I want people pun-
situation. I have been reading reports on juvenile ished as much as anybody when they are guilty but
crime since 1964. I could bring to this auditorium I don't want under the stress of emotion things
a stack of reports about this high and if you would being done that later would be regretted. Now here
like for me to bring along with me a copy from the is a thing I talked to one of them about - you could
National Council on Juvenile Crime and Delinquency, do, you could increase the penalty for manslaughter.
the October issue of 1964, I would like to bring it Just like we have a penalty up to ninety-nine years
along and read it to you. It is too long for me for armed robbery, and I voted for that in the
to tell you about it. But the second the legisla- legislature and I voted that it wouldn't be subject
ture could have this power to limit or take away to parole, but it is subject to commutation and in
the power that you have already given him it is like the proper case you can take a person convicted of
saying you are going to give me a chance to live armed robbery or attempted armed robbery which are
and then you are going to take it right out of my not subject to parole but you could have them com-
hands again. I want you to think about it and I muted. You've got to always have some escape hatc.i
want you to pray about it because there is nothing from a horrible wrongdoing and have a method of un-
that is hidden that is not coming to light and God doing it. I am not being for turning people loose
is sitting up high and he is looking down low. I



26th Days Proceedings— August 4, 1973

here and there. I'm a citizen. I want to live. few statements to make as a non-attorney. Those

I don't want to be shot. 1 don't want to be robbed, statements are that capital punishment is a thing

but we are not going to take people out to Angola of the past and perhaps, emotionally you are just

like they are rats and drown them, whether you think making it a thing of the past, perhaps emotion and

it is a good idea or not, we are restricted in wisdom should direct us to a realistic life impris-

things. So let's try to have laws that we think out onment. I feel that Mr. Burson's Amendment is not

and not emotional and that work. 1 have studied designed as a reprisal or a method of seeking re-

this thing for years. I have always been interested venge. I see it merely as one of the very small

in criminal law and I think the amendment we just means of providing that you and I, and our families

passed that is authored by five people who are fa- can again walk the streets and the byways of this

miliar with this field covers this subject. The state without fear of the criminal. 1 thank you.
other amendments, and I have read them, I am going
to be against them. Further Discussion

Further Discussion Mr. Weiss Fellow delegates, before moving the

previous question since I believe no one follows me,

Mr. Roy Mr. Chairman and ladies and gentlemen of I would like to attempt to summarize this very

the convention, I am going to move the previous eloquent discussion in that we have met this matter

question but in view of the fact that someone else headlong in the Bill of Rights Committee and have

will speak, I have something to say. In the book, spent many hours discussing this. I would like to

Love Story , Erich Segal asks "What do you say about compare this discussion to the three blind men and

a twenty-five year old girl who died?" I ask what the elephant who each described the tail, the trunk

do you say about a national paranoia of law and and the legs. I think each person up here is very

order to a group of honest, dedicated, well-meaning sincere in what they had to say. Each one - the

whites who may be headed in the wrong direction? district attorneys have related a very important

I say whites because the blacks among us, long the phase of their undertaking. Others who feel very

recipients of this law and order paranoia, need strongly as a citizen on the street, insecure in

not be reminded of its consequences. Do I repeat their own person as they walk down the street day

that Pappy Triche was eminently correct when he said and night, in expressing the belief that criminals

that you are confusing parole and probation, a le- should be removed from the scene, either by life

gitimate legislative function, with commutation and imprisonment or otherwise. I can vouch very defin-

pardon, a legitimate executive function that only i tely - pronounc i ng people dead who have been mur-

the governor is equipped to handle because of those dered by criminals in our community, the very famous

cases where it is needed? Could I call your atten- [...] case. I had t "

tion to the fact that the common denominator of all this woman dead who

Fortune of pronouncing
legedly murdered by thi

the arguments supporting the Burson Amendment is individual. These are serious problems. Now we

Online LibraryLouisiana. Constitutional Convention (1973)Records of the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1973 (Volume 6) → online text (page 2 of 155)