In another win for states that don't want anyone to know where their execution drugs come from, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a last-minute appeal from an condemned inmate.
Lawyers for Texas inmate Tommy Lynn Sells (right) have been in and out of courts this week trying to delay his execution and force the state to reveal the source of pentobarbital, one of the drugs that will be used to kill Sells. Pentobarbital is no longer available for use in executions from the European company that makes it, so states have had to rely on compounding pharmacies (which are not regulated by the FDA the way drug manufacturers are) to make it or go with alternate and often untested drugs. In Oklahoma, the executioner has a choice of five different ways to kill a prisoner without having to disclose which one will be used or where it came from.
Texas has refused to say where it got its latest batch of pentobarbital, citing security concerns. There's also the fact that compounding pharmacies usually stop providing those drugs once they've been identified, forcing state to find a new supplier. Sells' lawyers say he has the right to know where the drug came from and who made it, lest it cause him to suffer unduly (in Oklahoma, for instance, an inmate said he could feel his "whole body burning" as he was put to death).
The Supreme Court ruled it would not stop the execution. The AP reported that "the one-paragraph ruling did not elaborate on why the justices made the decision and did not indicate any dissents."
Sells was convicted of the 1999 murder of 13-year-old Katy Harris. He slashed her 10-year-old sister's throat, but she surived. Sells has confessed to as many as 70 more murders, including a 9-year-old girl he also molested.
Update, 8:15 p.m.: Sells is dead. Texas has not revealed the name of its pentobarbital supplier.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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