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Exoneree Shareef Cousin fights for abolition in Louisiana

Shareef Cousin and ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Alanah Hebert

Shareef Cousin, who was sentenced to death in Louisiana at the age of 16 and served 3 years on death row, spoke on the steps of the Lousiana Capitol Building in early April. Democratic Representative Terry Landry just filed House Bill 215, which would eliminate the death penalty in Louisiana for any offenses committed on or after August 1, 2019.

Shareef stated: "I was innocent. I was framed. While on death row, people could not imagine the mental anguish that I had to go through as a child.”

He was joined by ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Alanah Hebert, who added: "We are here today because the death penalty is a broken process from start to finish." Hebert also discussed the racial and economic biases that impact death sentencing. "The likelihood of being sentenced to death doesn’t depend on someone’s account of the severity of the crime, but rather on their lack of adequate legal representation, the color of their skin, or the state where they happen to live."

Louisiana leads the nation in death row exonerations per capita, having released 11 since the death penalty was reinstated. Alanah Hebert mentioned Shareef and these other exonerees as reason to abolish the death penalty. “When we have the human costs for a person like Shareef and eleven other exonerees that are exactly like him, similarly situated, we have a real problem and we have to address it and so I think there is gaining support in our legislature and in our state for repeal."

The Promise of Justice Initiative is another organization working in Louisiana toward reform. The organization stated that "this legislative session, we really want to highlight the issues of wrongful convictions as it relates to Louisiana’s death penalty... It is so important to remind legislators of issues relating to wrongful convictions and Louisiana’s sordid racist history in the application of the death penalty."

Watch Shareef speaking about death penalty abolition:

Read more about Shareef's recent work in Louisiana in these news articles:

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