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Religious Leaders Support End to Death Penalty in Louisiana

Religious leaders are trying to build support for ending Louisiana's use of the death penalty, a proposal that has repeatedly failed to gain the backing of state lawmakers.

Two dozen clergy representing Catholic and Protestant churches spoke Thursday on the Louisiana Capitol steps in favor of proposals by Republican Sen. Dan Claitor , of Baton Rouge, and Democratic Rep. Terry Landry , of New Iberia, to eliminate executions in the state.

House lawmakers spurned similar proposals for the last two years. The Rev. Dan Krutz, executive director of the Louisiana Interchurch Conference, said church leaders aren't giving up and will return year after year in their bid to end capital punishment.

"People of the Gospel must reject capital punishment as a way of dealing with crime because death does not restore, heal or make whole what was lost. Death only causes more death," he said, reading from a resolution adopted by the conference.

Asked if he's seen any increased interest for the legislation from lawmakers, Krutz said passage may be even tougher in a statewide election year.

But he added: "Surprises happen." No lawmakers stood with the religious leaders in endorsing the bills. Louisiana's last lethal injection was in 2010. Seventy condemned inmates are awaiting execution, but capital punishment has been stalled in the state.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration says it can't obtain lethal injection drugs because companies don't want to be publicly associated with executions.

Republican Former Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration described similar difficulties. While Claitor and Landry are proposing to halt the death penalty, Republican Rep. Nicholas Muscarello of Hammond has a measure aimed at trying to restart lethal injections in Louisiana.

Muscarello is proposing to make secret any information about the person or company that manufactures, supplies, or transports drugs for an execution.

The legislation was suggested by Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry as a way to help resume executions. None of the bills have been scheduled yet for debate.