BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — A day after Gov. John Bel Edwards wrote a letter to the Louisiana Board of Pardons asking them to consider clemency for 56 death row inmates, hearing dates are being planned.

Board Executive Director Francis Abbott confirmed Thursday that the process to hold hearings has started, adding, “We will not be releasing the dockets at this time due to the victim notification process.”

In an Aug. 10 letter, Louisiana District Attorneys Association Executive Director Loren Lampert said at least 20 clemency hearings were scheduled for this fall starting in September.

“It is worthy of note that while the Governor’s ‘request’ expressed concern over the ’emotional toll’ this was taking upon the members of the Pardon Board, it is completely devoid of any reference to the impact upon the crime victims and their families. That silence is deafening,” said Lampert.

Read the full LDAA letter below.

The board was set to review clemency applications for inmates before the agenda item was removed and applications were “set aside” for further review of rules in July. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry had issued an opinion, saying the board shouldn’t waive the one-year eligibility period for inmates’ clemency requests.

Edwards’ Aug. 9 letter said, “I believe we must consider further the imperfect nature of the criminal justice system and the actual innocence that has been proven far too often after imposition of the death penalty. Over the last 20 years in Louisiana, there have been six exonerations and more than SO reversals of sentences in capital cases. Even for those serving a
death sentence whose guilt is unquestioned, there are still many more questions than answers.”

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore had raised concerns about processes, adding that the inmates’ requests came “as a surprise to several district attorneys” and the public. Moore said there is only one death row inmate in the parish.

Abbott previously explained the board’s standard process for reviewing applications in a July 14 letter. He said applications are set for review for the following months if received before the 16th day of the month, adding that the board typically gets and reviews 35 applications a month.

Read Edwards’ full letter to the board below.