Death Behind Bars

Board of Pardons declares life sentence for Herman D. Pallet and Fred Martin

In a battle between life and death the Board of Pardons in the city of New Orleans is finished giving clemencies as if it were candy. Angola State Prison is home to scores of old men. Someone who made a terrible mistake in his youth and has transformed himself after decades in prison has little or no chance at freedom. Louisiana laws provides that capital punishment, or the “death penalty,” may be applied in murder and treason cases.  

As of 2013, there were 32 states (plus the federal government and U.S. military) that utilize the death penalty. The belief of implying death as a punishment goes way back to the 18th century B.C. in the Hammurabi Code, which was engraved on stone tablets. These tablets prescribed the death penalty for over 20 different offenses. Depending on your social status, you could be executed for theft, perjury, and other crimes that today are punished much more lightly in most countries. The Code also famously prescribed that “If a man destroys the eye of another man, they shall destroy his eye.” In the beginnings of colonial times (17th century) punishment varied.  Offenses such as stealing grapes, trading with Native Americans, or striking one’s mother or father were punishable by death in some colonies. Flash forward to modern United States, the U.S. Supreme Court band the death penalty nationwide in 1972, ruling that it was arbitrary and discriminatory as applied at the time. But just four years later, the Court reversed this descision thereby allowing states to reinstate capital punishment as long as they corrected the problems cited by the Court in the earlier decision. According to the Louisiana Board of Pardons “to consider clemency applications submitted in accordance with Louisiana Administrative Code, Title 22, Part 5, Chapter 1. The Board will administer the clemency process and make recommendations to the Governor, fully accounting for the public’s safety and due consideration. The Board shall not discriminate against any applicant because of race, color, disability, sex, religion, age, national origin, or genetic information.” 

Work Cited:

Death Penalty Information Center, 2011,

Lousiana Capital Punishment Laws, 2019

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