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Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Angola Prison News
By Lauren McGaughy, NOLA.com | The Times Picayune
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on January 27, 2014 at 7:57 PM, updated January 27, 2014 at 9:37 PM
ANGOLA PRISON NEWS
Louisiana will change protocol, adopt Ohio lethal injection drugs one week before scheduled execution
Convicted killer asks federal judge, U.S. Supreme Court to halt Feb. 5 execution
Louisiana doesn't have lethal injection drug 12 days before Sepulvado execution date
Louisiana must produce more info on lethal injection process ahead of Feb. 5 execution, judge rules
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With just more than one week to go before convicted killer Christopher Sepulvado is scheduled to die by lethal injection, Louisiana will alter its execution protocol and swap out a one-drug recipe for the same two-drug cocktail used in Ohio executions.
In an email statement sent late Monday (Jan. 27), the Louisiana Department of Corrections confirmed it would be changing its execution protocol to allow for the "two-drug protocol" used in Ohio. Previously, the state planned to use just one drug, the barbiturate pentobarbital, to carry out Sepulvado's Feb. 5 execution.
But officials were unable to secure the amount needed to administer a lethal injection. When asked what specific drugs would be included in the new protocol, corrections officials said it would be "the same as what Ohio uses in its two-drug protocol," but would not comment further.
This comes just two weeks after convicted killer Dennis McGuire appeared to writhe in pain during an Ohio execution employing the use of the drugs midazolam and hydromorphone. McGuire's family has filed suit, claiming the execution amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and adding the drugs were illegally used to put him to death. Louisiana officials confirmed Sepulvado's Feb. 5 execution will go on as planned, however, barring a court order mandating it be delayed.
"DOC is notifying Mr. Sepulvado's attorneys and the Court tonight that DOC has changed the execution protocol. The change consists of adding a two-drug protocol in addition to the current one-drug protocol," said DOC Spokeswoman Pam Laborde. "DOC is committed to ensuring the jury’s verdict is carried out in accordance with law."
Laborde would not comment on the specific drugs, or how they would be obtained, nor would she comment on the Ohio execution. Gary Clements, Sepulvado's lawyer, called the move a "last minute bait-and-switch," and even after the switch, the state was violating its own protocol that requires lethal injection drugs to be acquired 30 days before an execution.
"Just days before a scheduled execution, the State has significantly changed its execution protocol without independent oversight or public scrutiny," Clements said. "(This) once again demonstrates that the State is not prepared to move forward with Mr. Sepulvado’s scheduled execution in a manner that comports with state and federal laws, and the U.S. Constitution."
Read Louisiana's execution protocol, released June 17, 2013, here
Read the documents released Friday by the state here
Read Sepulvado's U.S. Supreme Court petition here
Earlier Monday, Sepulvado filed a motion for stay of execution, citing the state's admission Friday that it did not yet have the necessary supply of pentobarbital in stock. He also filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court alleging his 14th Amendment right to due process was being violated by a lack of information from the state on how he would be put to death.
In both court filings, Sepulvado's lawyers state the Louisiana Department of Corrections protocol for executions requires the lethal injection drug to be acquired at least 30 days prior to an execution date. According to a checklist found in the protocol, the pharmacist at Angola is required to "confirm at least 3 complete sets of the identified execution drugs are in stock (shall maintain at all times)" 30 days prior to the execution date.
In a separate part of the document, it states the pharmacist has the responsibility to "30 days prior to execution: verify execution drugs are in stock as above and expiration dates will not be exceeded prior to execution date."
Sepulvado's appeal marks the second time he has asked for a stay of execution. His first, granted nearly one year ago, came after similar questions about the state's protocol were raised. He then joined in on a lawsuit with fellow death row inmate Jessie Hoffman seeking to force the state's hand on releasing more information regarding the manner of execution in Louisiana.
Court filings claim the state has prevented Sepulvado and Hoffman "from obtaining the critical evidence they need to show that Defendants' use of a defective lethal drug poses an enormous risk that Mr. Sepulvado will experience severe and unnecessary pain during his execution."
Sepulvado's Supreme Court petition also cites the fear of a repeat of the lengthy and seemingly painful Ohio execution, and postulates that if the drug were faulty, the state would be in danger of violating Sepulvado's 8th Amendment rights as well.
"If a State does not officially release the details of its execution protocol, a court would have no way of verifying whether the State planned to use pentobarbital or another substance, such as expired or contaminated sodium thiopental, or an entirely different chemical whose properties could very well cause an unconstitutional degree of pain and suffering."
One document released Friday showed Louisiana corrections officials were in contact with Tulsa-based compounding pharmacy The Apothecary Shoppe in September, and that the business had asked the state to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Neither the business nor any of its listed pharmacists can be found on a list of the out-of-state pharmacies licensed in Louisiana and pharmacist DJ Lees, reached by phone, refused comment Monday.
The Apothecary Shoppe is a familiar name in the now highly-publicized discussion around lethal injection drugs. St. Louis Public Radio reported the company supplied Missouri corrections officials with pentobarbital, a drug primarily used to treat seizures and to euthanize animals, to be used in executions. As in Louisiana, the Apothecary Shoppe is not licensed in Missouri.
Multiple calls and emails to lawyers for the state were not returned Monday. Gov. Bobby Jindal didn't comment on the case until he was asked at an unrelated press conference. He deferred to corrections officials.
Sepulvado was convicted of the 1992 murder of his 6-year-old stepson Wesley Allen Mercer in Mansfield. Court records show he beat the boy and stabbed him with a screwdriver, before dunking him in a scalding hot bath. Hoffman was sentenced to death for the 1996 kidnapping, rape and killing of Mary "Molly" Elliott, an advertising executive in St. Tammany Parish.
Sepulvado's execution would be the first for Louisiana since 2010, when Gerald Bordelon was put to death for the 2002 rape and murder of his 12-year-old stepdaughter.