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Federal judge delays Louisiana execution to review injection drugs

A judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana [official website] declared Monday that Wednesday's scheduled execution of 70-year-old Christopher Sepulvado by lethal injection will be delayed for 90 days. Sepulvado was charged with the murder of his six-year-old stepson in 1993. Last week, Louisiana Department of Corrections officials expanded their execution protocol to include a two-drug mixture of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller. Defense attorneys for Sepulvado argued a delay is justified in order to review the new drug combination, which was adopted too close to the scheduled execution date. Accordingly, Judge James Brady scheduled a trial for April 7 to review the constitutionality [Reuters report] of the new execution protocol in Louisiana, and Sepulvado's execution is delayed until May 4.

In the US there is a shortage of commonly used lethal injection drugs, forcing a number of states to modify their execution drug protocols and resulting in a number of lawsuits challenging the use of untested drug combinations. Last week the US Supreme Court stayed [JURIST report] the execution of a Missouri death row inmate because the state refused to release the name of the pharmaceutical to be used in the execution, but the stay was later lifted and the execution carried out. This same two-drug mixture at question in Louisiana was used last month in the execution of an Ohio convict, which reportedly caused him to suffer visible pain and his children have filed a suit in federal court over the prolonged execution [JURIST reports].

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