By Alex Mikulich, Ph.D.
In September 2011, Louisiana Catholics Committed to the Repeal of the Death Penalty publicly launched its campaign to end the death penalty in Louisiana. The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops initiated this campaign in 2010. This essay highlights key findings of a comprehensive study of Louisiana’s use of the death penalty that I have conducted over the past year. The full study, coauthored with Sophie Cull of the Louisiana Capital Appeals Project, was part of the campaign’s launch.
Louisiana is a case in point of the fact that the modern death penalty in the United States emerged as a “law and order” alternative to the “rough justice” of lynching in the 19th and early 20th centuries and as a way to enforce racial hierarchy.1 White complicity in this legacy endures. Disproportionate arrests, prosecution, capital sentencing, and application of the death penalty against African Americans belie any claim that the administration of the capital punishment in Louisiana is rational or fair.