La. high court throws out man's execution date - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

La. high court throws out man's execution date

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The Louisiana Supreme Court has thrown out a Nov. 5 execution date for a man convicted of fatally beating and scalding his 6-year-old stepson in 1992. 

The state's highest court ruled Wednesday that a state judge in Mansfield erred in setting the execution date when a federal appeals court still had jurisdiction over Christopher Sepulvado's case.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that U.S. District Judge James Brady abused his discretion when he delayed a Feb. 13 execution date for Sepulvado. But the panel's ruling hasn't become final yet because Sepulvado's lawyers had until Friday to challenge the decision.

Gary Clements, one of Sepulvado's attorneys, on Thursday filed separate requests for the panel to reconsider its ruling and for the full 5th Circuit to review the panel's order. 

Sepulvado was convicted in 1993 of first-degree murder for killing Wesley Mercer at his Mansfield home. 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. 

Brady ruled in February that Louisiana officials had provided too little information about the execution methods and the drug that will be used in the injection. But the 5th Circuit panel said Sepulvado's request for a stay was "untimely," and it found "no equitable basis for further delay."

The state disclosed earlier this year that it planned to switch from using three chemicals to one - a single dose of pentobarbital - to execute inmates. But officials refused to specify the protocol for carrying out executions. 

In one of Thursday's court filings, Sepulvado's lawyers argue that his case "presents a question of exceptional and timely importance": whether an inmate can be executed without an opportunity to be heard on matters related to the execution protocol.

"This issue is novel, as Louisiana is virtually alone in its secrecy of the execution protocol; however, as more and more states face shortages of execution drugs and are forced to change protocols, this issue is of present and immediate relevance to cases within this circuit and around the nation," they wrote. 

Pentobarbital wasn't used the last time Louisiana executed an inmate, in 2010. The state said one of the three chemicals it did use on that occasion - sodium thiopental - is no longer available. 

Sepulvado's attorneys say even pentobarbital has become unavailable over the past six months, forcing some states to consider changing the method of execution.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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