- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The lawyer for a convicted murderer scheduled for execution next week asked a federal judge on Monday to delay the plans because of continuing questions about what drug will be used in the lethal injection.

A Feb. 5 execution date at the Louisiana State Penitentiary is set for Christopher Sepulvado, who was convicted of the beating and scalding death of his 6-year-old stepson in DeSoto Parish two decades ago.

Sepulvado’s lawyer Gary Clements said the Jindal administration has refused to provide information about the drug that will be used to execute Sepulvado, how the state will obtain the drug and the procedures that will be followed in the lethal injection.

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Sepulvado needs more information to protect his constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, said Clements, director of the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana.

State corrections officials have created a situation in which an inmate “has little, if any, substantial opportunity to investigate and challenge the protocol with which Defendants will attempt to kill him,” Clements wrote in the delay request.

He said the state didn’t have any pentobarbital in its possession as of Friday, though that is the drug the Department of Corrections said it would use for the lethal injection. He said the written execution protocol requires the department to have 15 grams of the unexpired drug in stock within 30 days of a scheduled execution.

Drugs used in executions have become more difficult to obtain, as companies have been resistant to sell them for such a purpose.

The corrections department acknowledged Monday that the state prison at Angola did not have pentobarbital on hand for the execution. In an emailed statement late Monday, the department said it would change its lethal injection process to a two-drug method, but it did not specify what those drugs would be.

“The Department will continue to attempt to obtain the drug or drugs necessary for either of the two protocols,” said department spokeswoman Pam Laborde.

Asked if the state intends to continue with next week’s planned execution, Laborde replied, “Yes, unless a court rules otherwise.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal also wouldn’t provide details of how the state would proceed with an execution.

“The most important thing to us is that justice is served, that the verdict handed down by the court is fulfilled. So obviously, we’ve encouraged the Department of Corrections to do everything possible to make sure that verdict is carried out,” Jindal said.

Clements said lawyers for Sepulvado received reports that state officials were trying to get the lethal injection drug from a compounding pharmacy in Oklahoma, but he said that wouldn’t comply with Louisiana regulations on getting drugs from out-of-state pharmacies.

He also said most of the six people with medical training listed to attend the execution haven’t attended any practice sessions.

A previous lethal injection date set for Sepulvado in February 2013 was canceled because of similar questions about the execution methods.

Sepulvado was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1992 killing of Wesley Mercer at his Mansfield home.

Court records say Sepulvado repeatedly hit the boy on the head with a screwdriver handle and then immersed him in a bathtub filled with scalding water that burned 60 percent of his body. The boy had come home from school with soiled pants.

For Louisiana’s last execution in 2010, pentobarbital was not used. But one of the three chemicals used in the last lethal injection - sodium thiopental- has been in short supply in the United States so states have had to seek out other drugs.

Several other states have used pentobarbital in lethal injections.

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