Criminal Justice
 

Inmate’s lawyers call on state to answer questions about execution drug

Lawyers representing convicted child-killer Christopher Sepulvado filed a motion Friday pressing the state to quickly provide information about its lethal injection process as the inmate’s execution approaches.

The state plans to put Sepulvado to death on Nov. 5, though the state has yet to answer key questions about pentobarbital, the drug that will be used to execute him. Considering the pending execution, Gary Clements, Sepulvado’s lawyer, filed a motion for expedited discovery. He asked the state to answer the questions by Oct. 1.

Many of the questions posed Friday are the same that The Lens has been pursuing for months – including the expiration date and source of the state’s supply of pentobarbital, which the state said in February that it had ready for Sepulvado’s execution.

“Many questions remain regarding critical facts which could affect Mr. Sepulvado’s Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights during his execution, and it is necessary to expedite discovery in order that his claims may be fully litigated before November 5th,” Clements wrote in the motion.

The motion was filed as part of a lawsuit that Sepulvado joined earlier this year dealing with the efficacy and availability of the state’s execution drug.

Sepulvado was convicted in 1993 of killing his stepson. He was scheduled for lethal injection Feb. 13. Shortly before that date, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections announced that it would switch from a three-drug method to one drug, pentobarbital, because one of those three drugs was unavailable.

His execution was delayed pending a decision about whether the new execution method amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and violated his right to due process. In August, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the stay of execution was made in “error.”

At the time that Sepulvado’s execution was put on hold, Clements argued that the state lacked a clear procedure – a “protocol” – for executions.

In June, a magistrate judge ordered the state to turn over the protocol, and the Department of Corrections complied. However, in Friday’s motion, Clements argued that the state didn’t provide enough information to satisfy the inmate’s rights.

For example, the protocol calls for weekly practice sessions regarding the administration of lethal injection drugs once an execution date has been set. “The Plaintiffs have yet to see any evidence that such practice sessions are actually taking place,” the motion reads.

“Even more troubling, Plantiffs have yet to receive any documents relating to the source, manufacturer, quantity and expiration dates of the pentobarbital currently in possession of the Department of Corrections.”

When The Lens requested the same information – records relating to the current inventory of pentobarbital – the state responded that those records did not exist. Instead, the state provided records for the purchase of the drug in May 2011.

Akorn, Inc., the manufacturer that currently supplies the drug, says that it has a shelf life of two years; the manufacturer that supplied the drug when the department bought it, Lundbeck, puts it at three years.

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