Baton Rouge, LA- Today, Governor Jeff Landry opened the 2nd Extraordinary Session of 2024 focusing on crime. This special session begins to fulfill the campaign promises Governor Landry made to the people of Louisiana to make our safe state and protect our communities.


Remarks as prepared:


Mr. Speaker,

Mr. President,   

Ladies and Gentlemen of the House and Senate,   

Thank you for your warm welcome and thank you all for the service to the people of our state whose hope for a safer Louisiana brings us to their Capitol.  The ongoing debate and day-to-day work we are deeply involved in   of improving our economy, of protecting our environment,  and  of reforming our education system; all lose significant meaning if our communities are not safe.      As Attorney General I warned that the goal of criminal justice reform should not be about letting people out of jail, but how to keep people from going to jail. 


Those warnings went unheeded.   Last year I promised the people of this state, if elected Governor, I would do everything within my power to improve the safety of our communities through both legislative and executive action.  Today we continue that process.  Everyone in this room is aware that crime has put a national spotlight on our great state.  


In 2021 Louisiana had the highest violent crime rate in the nation.  In 2022, three of our cities were in the top 10 most dangerous cities in America. 280 people were murdered that year in New Orleans alone, earning that city the title of “murder capital” of the country.   


Last year more children were murdered in New Orleans than any year in the past decade.   

While these statistics are sobering, they can seemingly be just numbers, or a passing news story.  


However, for the victims, it is life altering.  The effect of being a victim of crime does not end the day after. For most, the nightmare only begins.       


While these victims carry the burden of loss, they are also thrown into the unknowns of a criminal justice system that has forgotten them.    


The proposals we layout today were constructed by listening.       

Listening to the voices of the people,   

Listening to those responsible for protecting us,  

Listening to those responsible for administering justice, and 

Listening to those who matter the most--the victims of crime.               


Today I invite you to meet some of the faces of the crime statistics in Louisiana.  

Faces like, Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Guzzardo, who are here today on behalf of their daughter Stephanie.  In 1995, Stephanie was murdered along with her co-worker at Calendar’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge. Stephanie pleaded for her life as Todd Wessinger pulled the trigger, robbing the Guzzardo’s of their beautiful daughter’s life.  They have lived with the pain each day since, with a promise of justice that goes unanswered.   


Our criminal justice system has lost balance.   


The steps we take to restore that balance are difficult to accept for some.  However, when promises are made to a victim’s family and friends, granting them that justice, restores balance.   Our capital punishment law serves to bring justice for crimes of horrific violence.  When these sentences are handed down, they form a covenant between the State and the victims, and their family and their friends.    


Justice requires that we uphold that covenant.       


We propose legislation that would declare any and all records or information pertaining to carrying out a sentence be strictly confidential and not subject to public disclosure.  Our legislation would make it a felony to violate that law and also allow the victim’s families to recover damages.    


Should our State be unable to obtain the necessary drugs, our proposed legislation will provide alternative legal methods of carrying out these sentences that have been approved by our Courts.  


Capital punishment is lawful, and we intend to fulfill our legal duty to resume it.     


While planning these proposals, I sought the input from those in law enforcement.  As a former police officer and sheriff’s deputy, I have seen the best - and the worst a community has to offer.  I have walked in the very shoes of those who stand on that thin blue line, protecting us from those who seek to disrupt the peace that we deserve in our communities.   


We are honored to have with us today Sheriff Doug Hebert and Sheriff Kevin Cobb, the current and past presidents of the Louisiana Sheriffs Association.  They are joined here with several other Sheriffs and local law enforcement officers. 


Our law enforcement officers serve you with bravery and dedication; while being underpaid, under appreciated, and under equipped for the tireless, thankless, and dangerous job we ask of them to perform day and night.            


They sacrifice their lives for you and me.  It’s time we sacrifice more than rhetoric for them.           

They encounter the worst.  It’s time for us to give them our best.           


They have our backs.             

It’s time we had theirs.           


Risking their lives for us, should not mean risking civil liability when one makes a good faith error or when faced with a meritless accusation.    


That is why the qualified immunity we seek in this session will give them confidence and peace of mind as they perform their job.  This proposed legislation will also help us recruit the best and brightest into law enforcement.  It will reduce the number of unnecessary and in many instances, frivolous lawsuits filed against our officers.  All without sacrificing public safety.  


I have always stood with these men and women and will continue to protect them when they perform their duties in good faith.   

And you should too.   


I ask you to reach out to the officers in your district.  Seek their advice on the proposed legislation.  You will hear from the very best in your communities what they have to offer, who have first-hand knowledge of the criminality prevalent in our state.   


I have also listened carefully to our District Attorneys, their Assistants, and many Judges who administer our criminal justice system daily.  They have expressed to me their frustration with the leniency of sentencing, and our misguided post-conviction programs that feed recidivism by constantly returning un-reformed, un-repentant, and violent criminals to our neighborhoods.    


The revolving door is insulting.    


Right now, up to 70% of a sentence may be removed for “good time”.  This “good time” requires no effort of the inmate to participate in programs that would provide educational, job skill training, or rehabilitative services. Good time is rewarded to inmates with really no effort on their part. 


It’s like a participation trophy for jail!   


What we need is truth in sentencing that will incentivize inmates to complete certain re-entry programs, earn a GED, learn a job skill, and in doing so earn a reduction in sentence;   preparing them to re-join society in a productive, safe, and responsible manner.  Real rehabilitation not only makes our communities safer, but it is cost effective. 


Without meaningful reform, those being released come back into the system again and again, making our communities less safe.  This has caused violent crime to rise, victims to be put at risk, and our criminal justice system to remain broken.      

Where is the cost savings in that?            

While many say focus on the cost, I say focus on the cost to society, I say focus on the cost to our citizens in loss of property, in the disruption of their lives, and in the irreparable tragedy of losing a loved one.     


In attempting to bring truth in sentencing, we propose legislation that limits the number of claims that may be filed by a convicted felon.  These are real monetary saving measures that will help offset any cost associated with other proposals.  


 The 2-year prescription for filing an inmate claim is currently not enforced, resulting in hundreds of frivolous claims by inmates, costing the state money.    


Sadly, we have seen radical activists hard at work to empty our prisons.  They disregard the deadlines that are in place for seeking post-conviction relief.  Similarly, there has been a complete disregard for policies put in place by the parole and pardon board.  We are asking for mandatory deadlines to be put in place, so that victims are not misled.  


The legislation will also require that an inmate not commit a disciplinary offense for at least three years prior to a hearing.  Any consideration in sentencing should be merit based.    

With our focus on the victims, we propose a mandatory 90-day notice be provided to the victims prior to any hearing being granted.      


By continuing to focus on victims we send a message that they shall once and for all be heard in the process of criminal justice reform. 


And they demand transparency.  


The lack of transparency in our criminal justice system is unacceptable.  


Neither victims, defendants, nor the general public have access to information about what exactly is happening in criminal courts on a daily basis.  


Ask Dr. Patrick Dennis, who is here today and who testified before the Legislature last year about being held at gunpoint by a juvenile, never notified of the trial date, only to learn later that the gunman was released.  This same juvenile held 14 other victims at gunpoint within a three-day period.  


Ask Elisabeth and Noah Hansard who are here today. 

Elisabeth also appeared before the Legislature last year, because her son, Noah, was robbed and shot in New Orleans by a juvenile. 

He is now confined to a wheelchair.  Elisabeth and Noah have no way to access information about their case in juvenile court and still have no idea if the shooter had a previous criminal record.  


Ask Mrs. Sherilyn Price, who is also here with us today and who also testified before you about how she was misled about the murder of her son, the popular comedian Boogie B.  Boogie B was struck by a stray bullet in a grocery store parking lot when he was in town visiting his family for Christmas.  His mom was never informed of when the perpetrator was arrested nor that a bond hearing was set.     


Jania and Jaylan Blount join us today.  Their mother, Cassandra, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in the parking lot outside of her apartment complex.  

The perpetrator fled the scene to Tennessee and shot a police officer there.  At the time he murdered Cassandra, he had been arrested over 25 times and was on probation.


These women deserve answers to very important questions.  

Why was he given probation?  

Why was he out on the streets?  

What happened in each of his 25 prior arrests?  


But these are only a few stories out of thousands that can be told in support of our Truth and Transparency program, which we tried to pass during the 2023 Legislative Session.  


Victims and the public have a right to know what is happening in our criminal justice system and where it is failing. Our transparency legislation will allow people to access this information and provide online access to the data from our criminal and juvenile courts. Through this simple and common-sense measure, we hope to ease the suffering of victims, offer more transparency in the legal process, and find better solutions to our crime problem.    


Louisiana was once defined by our great cities.  They were gems of the South and cornerstones of our State.  Over the last two years, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and New Orleans have all made the top ten most dangerous cities in the country; with New Orleans making the list of the top ten most dangerous in the world. Carjackings, homicides, violent crime, and juvenile gangs terrorize our citizens there.            


I have listened carefully, I have heard their pleas, I have felt their frustration, I have seen their sorrow, and I have watched as they have wept and prayed for relief from the palpable pain that crime has brought to their neighborhoods.    


Ask anyone in the world where Louisiana is and some may hesitate, but ask them where New Orleans is, and they know instantly. It is one of our greatest treasures.  Restoring it to greatness and glory, is a tide that will lift all boats.  


Sadly, crime is plaguing this magnificent city where right now, one in every 14 black men will be murdered by the age of 35.   


Tell me where is the justice in that?    


Previous Governors and previous Legislatures have dispatched and funded the State Police in the city at certain times, with the goal of securing the French Quarter and the business district.  While these initiatives have had short term success, once relaxed, the effort becomes lost.   

I say it is time to secure the entire city of New Orleans, that is why I am proposing a permanent Nola troop. One whose goal is to help protect the entire city and all its citizens, not just the tourist and the business areas.  


This entire beloved city deserves to live in peace and safety.      


Carjackings are plaguing the city as well and terrifying its residents.    


In March 2022 four teenagers ranging from 15 to 17 attempted to steal 73-year-old Linda Frickey’s car.  They sprayed Mrs. Frickey with mace, punched her, and in trying to pull her out of the car she was entangled in the seatbelt.  


As the teenagers drove away Ms. Frickey was dragged over 200 yards before being dislodged from the vehicle ripping her arm from her body.  She died 20 minutes later. Her sister Jinny Lynn joins us today.  


Also with us today is Miss Nadia Sanchez of New Orleans whose mother, Jeannot was carjacked in New Orleans in 2018.  During her carjacking, the perpetrators rolled over her and killed her with her own car in her own driveway, and in front of her family.      


And yet, these are just a fraction of the carjacking horror stories unfolding in our cities underscoring why we propose elevating the mandatory minimum sentencing for carjacking from 2 years to 5 years.  


If the act results in bodily injury, the mandatory minimum should be 20 years.    


So, to those who make the decision to carjack someone in Louisiana, here me clearly--you better hope the car is full of gas and can you go where we can never find you, because when we do; you will spend a long time in jail!       


As you are aware, many of the crimes discussed have been committed by juveniles, highlighting how our juvenile justice system is failing our kids.     


Mr. Cortez Collins’s 17-year-old son, Corterion, was senselessly shot and killed in December of 2022, by a juvenile.  He was a high school senior.  The case was not transferred to adult court as it should have been, and the juvenile who committed will only serve a very few years for Corterion’s murder.    


Explain that to Mr. Cortez Collins.


The former Administration’s criminal justice re-investment lowered the age of 17-year-olds charged with a violent crime. By lowering the age, it has resulted in actual incidents of older criminals recruiting 17-year-olds for criminal activity, knowing the consequences would be minimal. It has fast-tracked too many of our teenagers into a life of crime. The effect has been catastrophic. 


These juveniles are not innocent children any longer; they are hardened criminals.  They violently attack our citizens, our law enforcement officers, and even our juvenile correction officers without hesitation.    


Darrelle Scott, was robbed and shot by a 13-year-old while walking in New Orleans East. Darrelle is now paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair.  The juvenile was not able to be transferred to adult court because he was too young.  He has been moved to an unsecured facility and has escaped repeatedly.   


An unexpectable amount of the shootings occurring in Louisiana are being performed by 17 years olds or younger. Corrections officials will tell you that 16 and 17-year-olds have destroyed our juvenile detention facilities.  As a result, we are paying other states $600/day per person, to house these violent inmates.    


We propose to correct the age by legislating the prosecution of any person 17 years of age charged with a felony, be tried as an adult. Furthermore, the proposal will require all juveniles adjudicated of any violent crime be in custody for a minimum of three years.                


I questioned a friend who has been in law enforcement his entire adult life, whether he ever pursued or arrested someone for homicide who possessed a concealed carry permit.  He could not cite a single instance.   


While criminals carry guns without regard for the law, lawful gun owners are our most law-abiding citizens.  Their armed presence helps deter violent crime.  


It is time Louisiana join 27 other states who have created a constitutional right to carry a firearm without the government’s permission.  

This body has repeatedly passed it. 

Now you have a governor who will sign it. 

Our proposal does not terminate the concealed permitting process.  Many citizens travel to other states with their firearms and their permit will satisfy any reciprocity demands.    


We also offer enhanced immunity from liability when one is forced to use a firearm lawfully and has a concealed permit.      


We all know that a good person who makes a bad decision deserves a second chance.   

We ask that you work with us to expand our drug courts.  

It is noted that those completing Drug Court programs receiving structure and supervision are nearly 50% less likely to be arrested again. It is why in 2021 this body passed a bill to do just that.  Unfortunately, the bill was vetoed over politics.  

Now you have a Governor that will sign it!    


Currently, we spend $75 million a year on public defenders for those unable to pay for their own criminal defense.  The Louisiana Public Defender system lacks accountability and has strayed from providing defense and moving criminal cases.            

We propose to increase transparency and re-focus the mission of providing defenders and support personnel for much needed efficiency.      


I would again like to share my gratitude to the weary victims of crime who have joined us here today. I ask you to take the time and show courage in hearing their stories. 

When you do…             

you will hear what I have heard, you will see their pain, you will witness their patience dissipate, you will feel the burning desire for justice they endure every waking hour, and you will conclude, like me, that the simplicity of right and wrong that once guided society has sadly and dangerously been misplaced.    


The propensity of some to signal their virtuous compassion for criminals has become a liberal custom to many, without forethought of the consequences to society and the danger it creates in our neighborhoods and homes.            


They turn reckless commentary into political causes which undermine the principles that have made America safe. Today, I ask you to place the voices of the tired, the weary, and the broken-hearted victims of crime in this state, above the irresponsible rhetoric that is destroying our quality of life.          


I would like to ask all who have been a victim of crime and all those in law enforcement to please stand.           


To the ladies and gentlemen of this Legislature, I say, let this session be about them, and those who protect us.    


Let us take back our streets for them.            

Let us empower our citizens to live their lives without fear and mourning.            

Let us end the irresponsible and deadly tolerance for violence, flagrant theft, and the dealing of deadly drugs.     


Our good citizens work hard, play by the rules, and only seek to raise their families in peace.           

Let’s place their values above the selfish, criminal minded element that is destroying our quality of life.          


I humbly ask that you, they humbly ask you, to adopt these proposals in this session,  for the people for the next generation,  for our men and women of law enforcement and corrections,  and for these victims.          


God bless Louisiana and the people we represent.