Expert: Low-tech A/C reducing heat on Louisiana death row

AP News
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Posted: Aug 23, 2016 8:34 PM

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — An expert appointed by a federal judge has testified that a portable air conditioner consisting of an ice chest, a fan and an air duct has a high potential for helping drop the extreme heat indexes on Louisiana's death row that threaten three ailing condemned killers.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/2bz0dtb ) that Shane Hernandez, a professional engineer and air conditioning expert in Lafayette, told Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson on Monday that the low-tech units placed outside the inmates' cells work.

Jackson ordered state corrections officials in December 2013 to prevent heat indexes — a measure of temperature and humidity — on death row at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola from topping 88 degrees.

Hernandez testified that the humidity levels on the portion of Tier C where the three inmates have been moved are "much more comfortable" than other death row tiers that don't have the units.

"My clients for the first time in three years are in a reasonable condition," Mercedes Montagnes, the inmates' lead attorney, told Jackson.

Mary Roper, one of the state's lawyers, argued that the portable air conditioning units and a hole cut in the Tier C door to allow cool air from the air-conditioned guard pod to move into the tier are merely "temporary and experimental" measures.

Roper maintained the daily cool shower, ice chests filled with ice and extra fans that prisoners Elzie Ball, Nathaniel Code and James Magee are being provided are sufficient to remedy the constitutional violation that Jackson and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found on death row.

The state contends its second heat-remediation plan, which includes showers, ice chests and fans but no portable air conditioning units, is adequate.

The inmates' attorneys dispute that contention.

Jackson, who said Monday's testimony was very helpful, promised to issue a ruling "in pretty short order."

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com