- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Louisiana Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to delay the planned execution of a man convicted of beating and stabbing a 71-year-old woman to death while robbing her home in 1997.

A state judge had set a March 14 execution date for Daniel Blank, but the state’s highest court postponed it indefinitely.

Blank’s attorney, Gary Clements, said it was “totally premature” to schedule the execution because his client hasn’t exhausted his appeals options in state court.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the state corrections department says the agency doesn’t have the drugs necessary to carry out Blank’s execution.

Blank was accused of killing six people during a 10-month period in 1996 and 1997. In 2007, the state Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence for Lillian Phillipe’s killing.

Blank, now 52, also was sentenced to life in prison for killing Joan Brock, 55, of LaPlace; Barbara Bourgeois, 58, of Paulina; and Sam and Louella Arcuri, ages 76 and 69, of LaPlace. He was charged with but was never tried for the death of Victor Rossi, 41, in St. Amant.

Drug shortages have forced Louisiana’s corrections department to rewrite its execution plan several times since 2010, when it carried out its last lethal injection.

In an interview Wednesday, department spokeswoman Pam Laborde said the current plan allows for two options: using a single drug - pentobarbital, a powerful sedative - or using a two-drug combination of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. But she said the department doesn’t have an adequate supply of the drugs for either method.

Another death-row inmate’s execution has been repeatedly delayed since defense attorneys sued in federal court for more details about the state’s execution protocols.

A police officer found Phillipe’s body in her bedroom on April 10, 1997, with a broken trophy near her head and a bloody knife next to her bed. When investigators questioned Blank about the string of killings in the area several months later, he initially denied any involvement but ultimately gave a confession several hours into the interrogation.

Blank’s attorneys have claimed investigators illegally coerced his confession under duress, but the state Supreme Court’s majority disagreed.

“To the contrary, the vast majority of the interview was extremely benign on the part of the officers and Blank was treated very well throughout,” their 2007 opinion said.

Clements said there were “huge discrepancies” in the statements Blank gave to investigators.

“And they didn’t show these discrepancies to the jury,” he added.

The Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling says prosecutors relied “almost entirely” on Blank’s confession due to a lack of forensic evidence linking him to the crime scenes.

Jurors also heard evidence that Blank knew some of the victims, whose homes had been robbed of large amounts of cash, and that he had been gambling at area casinos with far more money than he earned.

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