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Louisiana to Use Controversial Execution Cocktail

The state will switch to the same two-drug combo that caused a condemned Ohio inmate to convulse for over 10 minutes before dying.

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By Shawn Dwyer

01/28/14

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In preparation for next week’s scheduled execution of Christopher Sepulvedo, who was convicted of killing his six-year-old stepson in 1992, the state of Louisiana will use a two-drug combination that ignited a firestorm of controversy after being used in Ohio earlier this month.

Just as with Ohio, Louisiana has made the switch because of the sudden shortage of the commonly used pentobarbital after drug laws in the European Union prohibited sales to the United States for use in capital punishment. "The reason for the change is that DOC has been unable to procure the drug, pentobarbital, specified in the one-drug protocol," said Louisiana Department of Corrections spokeswoman Pam Laborde. "The Department will continue to attempt to obtain the drug or drugs necessary for either of the two protocols."

The controversial combo in question is a mixture of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller. On January 16, condemned Ohio man Dennis McGuire was the first death row inmate to receive the lethal mixture of drugs despite warnings that the he could face an agonizing death. Witnesses to the execution, including his spiritual adviser Father Lawrence Hummer, described the scene as “horrendous” and “inhumane,” as McGuire struggled for breath for over 10 minutes. McGuire’s son later described the execution as “torture.”

One of Sepulvedo’s attorneys, Gary Clements, has said his team will appeal the ruling, though he made clear that they weren’t challenging the punishment, only the way it is going to be administered. "We predicted they would have trouble finding pentobarbital, and they would have their backs against the wall and they would be forced to do something drastic," Clements said. "[The] announcement has proven us correct."

Barring any last minute reprieve, Sepulvedo is scheduled to be executed on February 5.

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