Louisiana To Change Lethal Injection Procedure One Week Before Execution

Just one week before the scheduled execution of Christopher Sepulvado, Louisiana announced it has been unable to find pentobarbital for its lethal injections and instead may apply a new procedure used only once before in the U.S. If the state cannot obtain pentobarbital, it will employ the two-drug procedure used by Ohio on January16 to execute Dennis McGuire, an execution that resulted in gasping sounds and movements by the inmate over an extended period of time. That procedure involved midazolam—a sedative—and hydromorphone—a painkiller. Gary Clements, an attorney for Mr. Sepulvado, said Louisiana is violating its own protocol, which requires that lethal injection drugs be obtained at least 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.” Sepulvado’s attorneys argue his due process rights are being violated by the lack of information about the manner of his execution, and his right to be spared cruel and unusual punishment would be violated by an execution using faulty drugs.

Sepulvado’s execution is scheduled for February 5. Louisiana had planned to carry out the execution using pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy. If the new drugs are used, they may be injected intramuscularly, as opposed to intravenously as was done in Ohio.

On January 30, Sepulvado’s attorneys filed a supplemental brief with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging this new protocol and asking for a stay of execution.

(L. McGaughy, “Louisiana will change protocol, adopt Ohio lethal injection drugs one week before scheduled execution,” Times-Picayune, January 27, 2014; update Jan. 31, 2014). See Lethal Injection.