Killer’s attorney sues state as execution date nears

Attorneys for a DeSoto Parish man scheduled to be executed Feb. 13 for fatally scalding his 6-year-old stepson in 1992 are asking a Baton Rouge court to order state corrections officials to turn over records relating to Louisiana’s lethal injection procedures and protocols.

The New Orleans-based Capital Post Conviction Project of Louisiana, which represents Christopher Sepulvado, also is seeking a preliminary injunction until the requested records are produced and all litigation challenging lethal injection has been resolved or terminated.

“It would probably have that effect,” CPCPL director Gary Clements said Thursday when asked in a telephone interview if the request for an injunction is essentially a request for a stay of execution.

In a lawsuit Clements filed Tuesday at the 19th Judicial District Court, he says the Louisiana Supreme Court is currently considering lethal injection litigation that involves Sepulvado and all other Louisiana death-row inmates.

“The State brought Mr. Sepulvado into ongoing lethal injection litigation, but it now seeks to execute him by the very method that is at issue in pending litigation of which he is a party,” CPCPL attorney Kathleen Kelly argues in the suit.

Clements contends in his suit that the Department of Public Safety and Corrections arbitrarily denied him access to a large majority of the records he requested Dec. 18, including records reflecting the country and company of origin for each of the lethal injection drugs currently in the department’s possession.

Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections spokeswoman Pam Laborde said Thursday the department had not been served with the suit filed earlier in the week.

“Therefore we will reserve comment at this time,” she said.

The pending litigation Clements refers to in his suit is a lawsuit that death-row inmate Nathaniel Code, of Shreveport, filed against the department in 2009 in Baton Rouge. Code’s suit claims the state failed to follow proper administrative procedures before putting its lethal injection procedure in place.

In 2010, the department essentially countersued every Louisiana death-row inmate, asking for a judicial declaration that the state’s lethal injection rules and regulations meet statutory and constitutional muster.

Attorneys for many of the state’s death-row inmates argued that the rules governing executions in Louisiana have changed numerous times over the past two decades and could change in the future.

In 2011, state District Judge Mike Caldwell denied the department’s request that he validate Louisiana’s lethal injection procedure for future executions. The judge said it would be premature to do so because the lone U.S. manufacturer of a key drug used by the state has ended its production.

The department argued that its lethal injection protocols, either in their current form or as amended in the future, do not constitute rules and, therefore, the department did not and does not have to follow the rule-making procedures set out by the Louisiana Administrative Procedure Act.

In October, the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge rejected Code’s contention that the state’s lethal injection guidelines are invalid because they were not adopted in compliance with the LAPA. The court concluded that the department’s internal rules for implementing a death sentence are not subject to the LAPA.

Sepulvado was convicted in 1993 of the first-degree murder of Wesley Alan Mercer. Three days after Sepulvado married Wesley’s mother, the boy was hit in the head with a screwdriver handle until he lost consciousness, then thrown into a tub of scalding water, according to reports.

His mother, Yvonne Sepulvado, is serving a 21-year sentence for manslaughter. Jurors acquitted her of murder.

Clements’ suit has been assigned to state District Judge William Morvant.