Forty convicted murderers among the 56 inmates pardoned by Louisiana gov on his way out the door

Ongoing pardons from an outgoing Democratic governor amounted to the release of 56 inmates, the majority of whom were convicted murderers.

Louisiana’s Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry may have his work cut out for him when he is sworn in as the next governor of the Bayou State following term-limited incumbent John Bel Edwards’s farewell clemency tour. Documenting the pardoning spree that stretched back to Oct. 1, 2023, KNOE reported that 56 inmates had been pardoned thus far, 23 of whom were finalized between Dec. 13 and 19.

Of the total, 40 were convicted murderers.

In a recent interview conducted with NOLA.com, where Bel Edwards remained convinced he would have beaten Landry had state law permitted him to run for a third term, the outgoing governor spoke to the per capita rate of incarceration in Louisiana, the highest in the nation.

“For as long as I can remember, Louisiana reflexively responded to an increase in crime by putting more people in prison and keeping them there longer,” he said negatively of the practice before acknowledging rising crime and claiming, “We’ve never been made safer as a result of that. There is no data to suggest that an increase in crime here was because of the reforms.”

Data from the Prison Policy Initiative specified that as of 2021, Louisiana led the way with 1,094 incarcerated people per 100,000 with the next nearest being neighbor state Mississippi at 1,031.

While the majority of the convicted murderers had been charged in the second degree, 11 of the pardoned inmates had been convicted in the first degree, meaning they had killed a person with intent and had prepared for the act.

Highlighting some of the listed individuals, KTBS recounted that on Dec. 19 Nick Charles Nicholson was pardoned for the Aug. 1981 murder of Kelly Ann Gramm who had worked at a convenience store. Nicholson had stabbed her 39 times and the tip of his knife had broken off and was left embedded in the victim’s skull.

December 13 saw the pardon of Ricky Washington, who had been convicted of first-degree murder in Oct. 1979 after he shot the owner, Grady Haynes, of a grocery store in the back of the head during a robbery. Washington had been sentenced to life in prison after the jury remained split on the death penalty.

“On Mardi Gras day, February 15, 1983, Bernice Holman was fatally shot in the parking lot of Popeye’s Fried Chicken in New Orleans,” reported WVUE. “Keith Messiah, identified through eyewitnesses and an anonymous tip, demanded money from Holman and her friends. Despite compliance, he shot Holman in the face and fled with the money.”

“Messiah confessed to attempting the robbery, the accidental shooting, and fleeing when arrested. The jury, finding two statutory aggravating circumstances, recommended the death penalty, resulting in Messiah’s conviction for first-degree murder,” the report added.

In addition to murder convictions, other pardons included armed robbery, battery, arson and aggravated kidnapping.

Reactions to the pardons hardly supported Bel Edwards’s take that his policies would have garnered him, the first Democrat re-elected in the state since 1975, a third term.

Kevin Haggerty

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