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Louisiana House Approves Reintroduction of Nitrogen Gas and Electric Chair for Executions

In a contentious move, the Louisiana House of Representatives has voted to pass House Bill 6, sponsored by Rep. Nicholas Muscarello, R-Hammond, which seeks to reinstate nitrogen gas and electrocution as legal methods of execution in the state. This decision, made during a special crime session, also includes provisions to shield records related to executions from public access, with strict penalties for any leaks.

The bill, backed primarily by Republican representatives, received support on a 71-29 vote, with a few Republicans crossing party lines. Notably, Republican Reps. Stephanie Hilferty of New Orleans, Brach Myers of Lafayette, and Barbara Freiberg of Baton Rouge voted against the bill, while Democratic Reps. Vanessa LaFleur of Baton Rouge and Patricia Moore of Monroe supported it.

Rep. Muscarello framed the bill as a means to honor victims, emphasizing the importance of resuming executions to fulfill obligations to victims' loved ones. This sentiment aligns with Gov. Jeff Landry's stance on the matter, who views activity on death row as a priority in maintaining a tough-on-crime image.

The bill's passage marks a significant step towards Louisiana's first execution since 2010, with two individuals currently on death row having exhausted their appeals. Among them is Ted Wessinger, convicted of killing two people in 1995, including Stephanie Guzzardo, whose father has testified in favor of Muscarello's legislation.

However, the bill faces opposition from Democrats who have pushed for amendments aimed at increasing transparency. Despite efforts, most proposed amendments failed to gain traction. One successful amendment, introduced by Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, prohibits legislators and their immediate family members from selling execution supplies to the state.

Critics of the bill point to past incidents of non-disclosure to suppliers, highlighting concerns about the ethical conduct of the state in procurement processes. In 2014, Louisiana purchased hydromorphone from Lake Charles Memorial Hospital without informing the hospital of its intended use, sparking controversy.

The bill now heads to a Senate committee for further deliberation next week, where its fate will be decided in the ongoing debate over the state's approach to capital punishment.


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