Bishops seek to prevent execution set for Ash Wednesday

The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Jindal administration late Monday to halt the scheduled execution Feb. 13 of a convicted child killer because that lethal injection would occur on Ash Wednesday.

“To execute a faithful Catholic on Ash Wednesday would be inconsistent with the Lenten call for reconciliation and redemption and an unnecessary tragic irony,” the bishops said in a news release.

Christopher Sepulvado, 68, of DeSoto Parish, was convicted for the 1992 murder of his 6-year-old stepson, Wesley Allen Mercer. The horrific death occurred a day after Sepulvado married the child’s mother.

A trial jury decided that Sepulvado beat the boy unconscious with the handle of a screwdriver, then immersed him in scalding bath water.

The Louisiana Supreme Court rejected Sepulvado’s appeal of his conviction, noting that Wesley Mercer had third-degree burns over 58 percent of his body and his “scalp had separated from his skull due to hemorrhaging and bruising.”

On Monday, the bishops described Sepulvado’s actions as “evil and tragic.” They added: “We acknowledge the Christian power of reconciliation and redemption, which Christopher has embraced. He has expressed remorse for his actions while at the same time embracing his faith and ministering to his fellow inmates.”

The bishops noted that state officials can punish convicted murderers through nonlethal means such as life imprisonment.

“Executing Christopher will not bring Wesley back to life, nor will it provide healing, reconciliation or peace to those involved,” the bishops wrote in their release. “We offer prayer for and solidarity with those family members impacted by this crime as we do for all family members of victims of violent crime and murder.”

On Friday, the Louisiana Supreme Court announced its rejection of Sepulvado’s appeal of his death penalty.

Sepulvado’s New Orleans attorney, Gary P. Clements, is asking U.S. District Judge James J. Brady to merge Sepulvado’s appeal with that of fellow death row inmate Jessie Hoffman.

Hoffman contends that the state’s lethal injection formula may subject convicted murderers to excruciating pain while they are mute and paralyzed.

Clements said Friday that is because sodium thiopental, which renders two other lethal-injection chemicals painless, is no longer available.