Criminal Justice
3:59 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Update: Texas Execution Back On Schedule, US 5th Circuit Reverses Lower Court Ruling

Update (4/3): In a last-minute decision Wednesday night, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the lower federal district court's decision to halt the execution of death row inmate Tommy Sells, who is scheduled to die today, Thursday, April 3.

The execution had been halted pending a privacy-disclosure case involving the pharmacy manufacturing the drugs being used in the execution. Sells' attorney says she will be taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Original Post (4/2): Tommy Sells, a Texas death row inmate scheduled to be put to death on Thursday, has had his execution halted by Houston Federal District Judge Vanessa Gilmore.

Sells is one of the plaintiffs in a case requesting the State of Texas disclose the pharmacy that compounds pentobarbital, the state's execution drug, to Sells, his attorney and another death row inmate, Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas.

The state was initially ordered to disclose the name of the compounding pharmacy but that decision was temporarily halted by the Texas Supreme Court.

With the state Supreme Court's temporary ruling, Sells' scheduled execution was set to go forward until attorney Maurie Levin, who represents Sells, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.

“We're complaining about potential risk to which Mr. Sells and Mr. Hernandez are subjected as a result of an execution of these unknown drugs and asking for disclosure of the information; articulating for the court how TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) has waited until the last minute, which makes it near impossible for the litigation to proceed,” Levin said.

The Texas Supreme Court isn’t scheduled to hear the case until mid-April, which would’ve been long after Sells' execution. The TDCJ is arguing that revealing the name of the pharmacist, even privately to the attorneys of the inmates, is a safety concern.

Levin argues that inmates have a right to know in cases where there was a mistake making the drug and the inmate was made to suffer during the execution.