- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal appeals court Wednesday delayed a judge’s order that Louisiana reveal information about the seller and maker of drugs the state uses in executions.

U.S. District Judge James Brady in Baton Rouge had ruled last week that state Corrections Department officials must provide the information.

Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc and Louisiana State Penitentiary Warden Burl Cain have argued that if they identify how they’re getting the drugs, they could have trouble buying more because companies don’t want to be known as helping in an execution.

The state appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the court agreed to temporarily delay Brady’s order while it considers that appeal. A three-judge 5th Circuit panel of Patrick Higginbotham, James Dennis and James Graves gave those seeking the disclosure of the drug information until next Tuesday to file responses.

Attorneys representing Christopher Sepulvado, the prisoner scheduled for Louisiana’s next execution, are opposing the state’s attempt to hide the information, saying corrections officials failed to offer proof of their claims that disclosure could cause problems.

The state’s effort to keep the execution drug information hidden is part of an ongoing federal lawsuit filed by attorneys representing Sepulvado and others on death row.

The lawsuit seeks more details about Louisiana’s execution method, to determine whether it violates a condemned inmate’s constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.

Louisiana’s last execution in 2010 used three chemicals, but sodium thiopental, a key anesthetic in the process, became impossible for the corrections department to obtain. Prison officials then planned to use pentobarbital, a powerful sedative, as the single lethal injection drug, but the corrections department had trouble buying it.

In January, the state announced a new execution protocol that would use a two-drug combination, following the method carried out for the first time in a lethal injection in Ohio that includes the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone.

The change came only days before Louisiana planned to execute Sepulvado for the murder of his 6-year-old stepson two decades ago. After objections from Sepulvado’s lawyer, the state agreed to a 90-day postponement of Sepulvado’s lethal injection.

Brady will hold a trial about the constitutionality of the new execution protocol on June 16.

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