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Governor says carjackers ‘will spend a long time in jail’ as lawmakers advance harsher punishment

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — In the moments before Linda Frickey was dragged to her death during a fatal carjacking, the 73-year-old had been sitting in her parked vehicle in New Orleans when she was surrounded by four teenagers.

The teens, who ranged in age from 15 to 17 during the time of the crime in 2022, pepper-sprayed and punched Frickey. As they sped away with her vehicle, Frickey, who was entangled in a seatbelt, was dragged alongside for a block before her arm was severed and she was dislodged — left to die on the street.

Lawmakers have pointed to Frickey’s death as one example of the carjackings, homicides and juvenile lawbreakers that they say are terrorizing Louisiana cities.

In an effort to subdue violent crimes, lawmakers have returned to the Capitol for a short special legislative session and are advancing a slew of Republican-authored tough-on-crime policies backed by new conservative Gov. Jeff Landry. The aggressive agenda, which in large part Democrats argue will hurt the state, could reshape parts of the Louisiana’s criminal justice system and public safety sector.

Among the proposed legislation is harsher punishment for certain crimes that plague urban areas. Under one bill, which received bipartisan support in a committee Tuesday and will advance to the House floor for debate, if someone is found guilty of carjacking, the minimum sentence would increase from two years to five. In addition, if the carjacking results in bodily injury, the offender would serve 20 to 30 years in jail without parole.

“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,” Landry said during his speech to the Legislature Monday, the first day of the crime-focused session.

Carjackings in New Orleans decreased by 44% from 2022 to 2023, based on data from the city’s police department. However, high-profile carjackings in the city have made national news, including one that happened to a crew member of the Netflix series “Queer Eye” and was part of what caused the newest season — based in New Orleans — to be cut short, as reported by The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate.

On Tuesday, lawmakers also advanced bills that would designate illegal use of weapons or dangerous instrumentalities as a crime of violence. In addition, legislators green-lighted a bill that would toughen fentanyl-related penalties in cases where people distribute fentanyl in a way that appeals to children, such as the shape, color, taste or design of packaging. The crime would be punishable by a minimum of 25 years in jail without parole.

But harsher penalties are just one piece of the puzzle in the GOP-dominated Legislature’s agenda. Among this session’s bills are proposals to expand methods to carry out death-row executions, significant restrictions in parole eligibility, allowing the concealed carry of firearms without a permit, “qualified immunity” for law enforcement officers, and lowering the age of when someone charged with a felony can be tried as an adult to 17.

While lawmakers across the political spectrum agree that something has to be done to address crime in Louisiana — a state that in recent years has had one of the highest homicide rates in the country — their approaches have differed.

Republicans say the proposed policies prioritize victims and will keep criminals behind bars and off Louisiana streets. Democrats say the legislation won’t address crime and that the Legislature needs to take a holistic approach, including additional funding and programs to address drug addiction, improving outcomes for prisoners who re-enter society, and allocating more money for mental health and education.

Lawmakers must conclude the special session no later than the evening of March 6.

Sara Cline, The Associated Press


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