State asks to rule out next La. execution before 2018

The request is limited to death row inmates who are plaintiffs in the litigation

Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana won't carry out its next scheduled execution before January 2018 if a federal judge approves a request Tuesday by attorneys for the state corrections department, which hasn't had the drugs for lethal injections.

In a court filing, Attorney General Jeff Landry's office asked for an 18-month extension to a judge's order that delayed the execution of Christopher Sepulvado. U.S. District Judge James Brady didn't immediately rule on the request.

A federal lawsuit challenging Louisiana's method of lethal injection has kept Sepulvado's execution on hold since February 2014. The state's execution protocols changed as drugs used in lethal injections became scarce.

Brady previously ruled out executing Sepulvado and at least four other death-row inmates before July 11, 2016. Landry's office said it would be "prudent" to extend the order until Jan. 8, 2018, given the litigation's "fluid state."

Landry's office added that it would be "a waste of resources and time to litigate this matter at present time."

Michael Rubenstein, an attorney for death-row inmate Jessie Hoffman, said in an email Tuesday that he and other plaintiffs' lawyers are "pleased with the state's deliberate approach to this issue."

The request is limited to death row inmates who are plaintiffs in the litigation but others could join the lawsuit if an execution date is set by the courts.

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 February, corrections department spokeswoman Pam Laborde said the agency doesn't have the drugs necessary to carry out an execution.

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. Laborde said in February that the department doesn't have an adequate supply of the drugs for either method.

Although drugs for executions have become scarce, state lawmakers haven't made changes to Louisiana's execution method.

Sepulvado was convicted of first-degree murder for fatally beating and scalding his 6-year-old stepson, Wesley Mercer, at his Mansfield home in 1992. Sepulvado repeatedly hit the boy on the head with a screwdriver handle and then immersed him in a bathtub filled with scalding water after the child came home from school with soiled pants.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press

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