PJI Files Lawsuit Alleging the Department of Public Safety and Corrections Violated State Open Meetings Laws

On March 17, 2015, PJI filed a lawsuit on behalf of Sidney Garmon, Director of the Louisiana Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, alleging that the Department of Public Safety and Corrections violated state Open Meetings Laws by excluding the public from committee meetings held to comply with HR 142, a House Resolution directing the Department to determine the “most humane methods” of execution. The committee included the Secretary, Warden Cain, five other department employees and two lawyers from a law firm that represents the DOC . The committee met at least seven times in secret, with no public notice or opportunity for input. It ultimately determined that Louisiana should execute its prisoners by lethal gas, and that the death penalty in Louisiana should involve more secrecy. Ms. Garmon was excluded from these meetings and prevented from doing an important aspect of her work as Director, which is to work with policymakers to reform the death penalty and implement alternatives to this costly and arbitrary punishment. 

Calvin Duncan and Denise LeBoeuf speak at Loyola University's National Lawyers Guild's Panel on the Death Penalty

Calvin Duncan, the Program Director of the Light of Justice Project, spoke to a group at Loyola Law School about the death penalty.  The panel discussion was part of the Student Week Against the Death Penalty 2015 put on by Loyola New Orleans Chapter of the National Lawyer's Guild.  The other member on the panel was PJI Board member, Denise LeBoeuf.  Both spoke about the unconstitutional manner in which the death penalty is administered in Louisiana.  Denise LeBoeuf spoke about her many years of experience advocating for people sentenced to death, and Calvin Duncan spoke about his own experience having faced the death penalty and his many years of advocating for the men on death row as a prisoner at the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

PJI in the Community: 5 Years of Preserving Life on Death Row

PJI co-hosted an event to celebrate 5 years without executions in Louisiana. The event raised a toast to all of the allies and partners who have worked hard to end capital punishment in Louisiana, spoke with community members about the next steps toward abolition, and sent messages of hope to incarcerated men and women fighting for their lives on death row.  


Loyola University's National Lawyers Guild Holds Panel on the Death Penalty

On March 2, 2014, Cecelia Kappel and Sidney Garmon opened a week's worth of discussions on the death penalty sponsored by Loyola University's National Lawyers Guild.  The panel addressed current issues surrounding the death penalty including lethal injection, the arbitrary nature of the death penalty, some of the most concerning aspect of death qualification for juries, and legislative developments. 

Sidney Garmon commented on the panel by saying "The students of Loyola University join students across the country in a week of advocacy against the death penalty. They understand the death penalty’s years are numbered. I trust their education and advocacy efforts will have ripples in the community and reach the ears of our elected officials."


Client Assistance Program Mobilized to Help with Re-entry of Wrongfully Convicted Client

On January 21, 2015, Mr. Leonard Johnson was released from Angola after more than 38 years.  Walking out with his freedom, but little else to his name, our Client Assistance Program was deployed to help Mr. Johnson return home.

In his first week home our client welfare coordinator worked with Mr. Johnson to access emergency medical treatment – the prison did not even provide him with a days’ worth of medication when he left. Since then, PJI has assisted Mr. Johnson in securing simple documents such as a state-issued photo ID, his birth certificate, and a Social Security Card- plotting a path through the jungle of bureaucracy which is near impossible to figure out after 40 years of being on the outside. PJI also connected him to the Goodwill’s Ex-Offender Reentry Program, which he successfully completed. Mr. Johnson is now working with Goodwill's job developer to find employment. Most recently, our office arranged transportation for Mr. Johnson to visit his daughter and granddaughter in Jackson, Mississippi. Our office is currently accepting donations through our website or by mail for Mr. Johnson to help him restart his life.


Mr. Johnson is pictured above with his sister on the night of his release. They are holding a photo taken 38 years earlier of the two of them together.