File of Lethal Injection Chamber - AP Photo/Nate Jenkins
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana cannot execute a DeSoto Parish man next week because the state has provided too little information about the drug that will be used in the lethal injection and the execution methods, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
U.S. District Judge James Brady canceled the Feb. 13 execution for Christopher Sepulvado, who was convicted of the beating and scalding death of his 6-year-old stepson two decades ago.
Brady said without more details about the protocol the Louisiana State Penitentiary plans to use in preparing for and carrying out the injection, lawyers for Sepulvado cannot protect his constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.
The state will have the opportunity to execute Sepulvado, Brady said, adding, "But it must do so in a constitutional manner."
Until this week, the Department of Corrections hadn't confirmed it switched from a three-chemical lethal injection process to a one-drug execution method using pentobarbital.
The department gave the name of the drug it plans to use in a hearing in Brady's court, but offered no further details to Sepulvado's lawyers about how and when it was purchased, what training was provided to prison staff and who will carry out the execution.
No new execution date was immediately set.
Wade Shows, an attorney for the Department of Corrections, said Sepulvado's lawyers didn't ask for the execution details through the appropriate court process. Brady disagreed.
Shows said the corrections department would check with the DeSoto Parish district attorney's office to decide if an appeal of Brady's ruling would be filed.
Gary Clements, director of the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana and attorney for Sepulvado, applauded the decision.
"For the moment, I am relieved and pleased and not really surprised, because I think the case was pretty clear cut," he said.
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 young 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.
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