The Supreme Court refused to halt a Texas serial killer’s execution Thursday despite complaints about secrecy surrounding the drugs being used to kill him.
Tommy Lynn Sells was executed Thursday night in Huntsville, Texas. A flurry of last-minute legal efforts to stop it followed recent problems with executions in several states, as the stock of lethal-injection drugs and willing suppliers has dried up.
Sells, 49, was sentenced to death for the 1999 stabbing of a 13-year-old girl. He claimed to have killed up to 70 people across the country.
He won his petition for a stay of execution Wednesday in federal district court, which ruled that the state must inform lawyers how they planned to kill him and another death row inmate scheduled for execution next week.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals immediately overturned the ruling in Sells’ case and said the drug supplier’s name should remain secret to protect against threats of violence.
Sells’ Supreme Court petition listed as defendants a variety of state officials and “unknown executioners.” It demanded to know the source of the pentobarbital the state planned to use in his execution, how it was prepared and who had tested it, citing the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
Sells “has a constitutional interest — and consequent due process rights — in not being executed in a torturous manner,” his attorneys told the high court just hours before his execution.
After the high court turned down Sells’ request, attorneys Maurie Levin and Jonathan Ross said: “Without transparency about lethal injections, particularly the source and purity of drugs to be used, it is impossible to ensure that executions are humane and constitutional.”
The state uses a compounding pharmacy to get its drugs, which have become scarce coast to coast as supplies from Europe have dried up and amid concerns about legal liability. Such pharmacies are subject to less government regulation. The drugs they dispense, used in combination with others, have caused problems in some recent executions.
SOURCE: Richard Wolf