The spat between Gov. John Bel Edwards and Attorney General Jeff Landry over Louisiana's long-stalled use of capital punishment continued to play out on Thursday, as Edwards accused Landry of "deliberately misrepresent(ing) the facts" about why the state will not resume the death penalty at least for another year.
"The death penalty is a serious and complicated issue in Louisiana (and around the rest of the country) and the families of victims are not well served by politicians who spout off about this issue without real solutions," Edwards wrote in a letter to Landry in response to one the attorney general sent the governor a day earlier.
Edwards, a Democrat, and Landry, a Republican considered a potential challenger to Edwards in next year's gubernatorial race, are frequent foes.
The latest flare-up comes after the Edwards administration obtained a year-long extension of a court order that prohibits the state from carrying out executions because of hurdles to legally obtaining drugs used to administer lethal injection.
Louisiana last executed an inmate, who volunteered to be put to death, in 2010. There are 72 inmates on death row awaiting execution.
In his letter to Edwards on Wednesday announcing that his office would no longer take part in a lawsuit challenging the state's lethal injection protocol, Landry said he had "discovered the biggest obstacle to getting justice for our state’s crime victims was neither the federal case nor the difficulty obtaining drugs; it has and continues to be (Edwards') unwillingness to proceed with any executions."
"I remain committed to fighting for our crime victims and their families, who have already waited too long to see justice carried out," Landry wrote.
Landry has continued his criticism of the governor on social media.
"This is simple: I support the death penalty - by lethal injection, gas, hanging, and firing squad. Does (Edwards)?" Landry asked on Twitter.
In his letter to Landry, Edwards noted that other methods Landry has mentioned "like firing squad or hanging" are not currently legal options in Louisiana.
The Department of Corrections said in a statement this week that multiple pharmaceutical companies have refused to sell DOC "any of the drug compounds needed to carry out the execution" under either of the protocol options available to the state: single injection of the powerful sedative pentobarbital or a combination of the sedative midazolam and hydromorphone, which is a painkiller.
"DOC also explored the option of using a compound pharmacist, but this option was fruitless due to the lack of privacy protections and the inability to remain anonymous," Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc said in the statement.
Along with his letter to Landry on Thursday, Edwards included a document from drugmaker Pfizer that requires a purchaser to certify "under the penalty of perjury" that obtained drugs will not be used for capital punishment.
"Despite many efforts, the state of Louisiana at this time is simply unable to obtain the drugs necessary to legally carry out an execution," Edwards wrote in the accompanying letter.
Louisiana law does not allow information related to how lethal injection drugs are obtained to be concealed from the public, which Edwards said has further hindered efforts.
"You claim in your letter that the reason for your actions is your support for crime victims. I too support the victims of crime in this state and I pray that they may find peace and justice," Edwards wrote in the scathing rebuttal to Landry's equally biting correspondence. "However, you are not supporting the victims of crime by quitting a case that is attempting to solve the death penalty impasse and then taking to social media to try to score political points. That is using victims of crime – not supporting them."
Landry acknowledged on Twitter receiving the letter. Asked for comment, a Landry spokeswoman said the attorney general's only further response was: "Does the Governor support the death penalty?"
Edwards has largely avoided taking a stance on capital punishment. In past interviews, he has declined to endorse either side as the Legislature debated proposals to abolish the death penalty.