New Orleans ex-police officer awaiting execution loses chance at clemency

A New Orleans ex-police officer awaiting execution for the murders of a fellow officer and two other people during a 1995 restaurant robbery lost a chance at clemency Friday during a meeting of Louisiana’s pardon board.

Antoinette Frank’s bid for a clemency hearing failed on a 2-2 vote after emotional testimony.

It was one of five cases before the board after an initiative by Democratic governor John Bel Edwards, who opposes the death penalty.

Frank, the only woman on Louisiana’s death row, was convicted in the 1995 death of her police colleague Ronald Williams II during a robbery at the Kim Anh restaurant, where both officers would work an off-duty security detail. Also killed were Ha Vu, 24, and Cuong Vu, 17, children of the restaurant’s owners.

Frank left the restaurant after the shootings and returned later under the guise of bringing help, a detective said at the time. But other Vu family members who hid in a large cooler during the rampage identified her when she returned.

An accomplice in the robbery and killings, Rogers LaCaze, is serving a life sentence. He had been on death row, but his punishment was commuted over what the courts detemined to be due process issues.

Williams’s family members opposed a clemency hearing. A son of Williams, who was a baby when his father was killed, said it was “absurd” to consider her request.

Meanwhile, Quoc Vu, who was one family member who hid in the restaurant cooler on the night of the killings, had sent in a letter also opposing Frank’s bid for clemency.

“I never feel safe any more anywhere” since the triple murder, his letter said.

Supporters of clemency said Frank had experienced horrific trauma and abuse at the hands of her father when she was growing up. There was testimony Friday and in past court cases that Frank’s father repeatedly raped her and forced her to have abortions.

Board member Alvin Roche Jr said his vote against clemency was based on disciplinary reports in Frank’s prison record. He also said he worried that changing the sentence could open up a path to her release on parole.

Earlier this year, Edwards, who is term-limited and leaving office in January, announced his opposition to the death penalty. That was followed by clemency applications on behalf of 56 out of 57 death row prisoners seeking to have their sentences reduced to life without parole.

The board placed 20 of those applications on its docket. But after a block engineered by Republican attorney general Jeff Landry, who is running in an election Saturday to replace Edwards, only the first five had a shot at Edwards’s signature.