This was published in The Lens, on Aug. 6th 2014:
By Della Hasselle, Contributor
In January, as the date of Christopher Sepulvado’s execution approached, the Louisiana Department of Corrections did not have the drugs it needed to carry out his death sentence.
So the state turned to a supplier that uses hydromorphone to relieve patients’ suffering, not to kill them: Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.
“We assumed the drug was for one of their patients, so we sent it. We did not realize what the focus was,” said Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, a board member for the private, nonprofit hospital and chief judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeal.
“Had we known of the real use,” he said, “we never would have done it.”
The Department of Corrections bought 20 vials of the drug on Jan. 28, a week before Sepulvado’s scheduled execution, according to a document provided by the state in a lawsuit challenging its lethal-injection practice.
Until now, the source of those vials has not been publicly known.
Thibodeaux said it’s routine for hospital pharmacies to supply drugs to other pharmacies, including those run by the state, for their patients.
“We never inquire into the purpose for it. We assume it’s for legitimate and noble purposes,” Thibodeaux said. “We have assurances from our CEO, who is a very forthright guy, that this will not happen again.”
State officials with the Louisiana Department of Corrections did not respond to repeated requests to comment for this story. Sepulvado’s lawyers declined to comment.
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(NEW YORK) - Following the death of Herman Wallace, who was held in solitary confinement for nearly 40 years, Amnesty International today launches a campaign demanding the release of his co-defendant Albert Woodfox, who also has been held in cruel conditions of isolation following a deeply flawed trial.
'Enough is enough,' said Steven W. Hawkins, Amnesty International USA executive director. 'Nothing can justify the cruel treatment that the state of Louisiana has inflicted on Albert Woodfox. It's simply unconscionable for the state to hold him one day longer. His trial was flawed and his conviction has been overturned three separate times. Authorities must let the most recent court ruling stand and release Woodfox from prison. At this point, Louisiana officials seem to be out for vengeance; instead, we call on them to act in the interest of justice and see that he is released.'
Woodfox and Wallace were both convicted of the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller. There was no physical evidence to link them to the crime and their convictions relied primarily on the dubious testimony of a sole eyewitness who received favorable treatment in return for his testimony.
Both men have robustly denied any involvement in the crime. They believe they were falsely implicated in the murder because of their political activism in prison as members of the Black Panther Party.
Earlier this year a federal judge overturned the conviction. However, Woodfox continues to languish in prison after the state of Louisiana appealed against his release.
During a legal process that has spanned four decades, Woodfox's conviction has been overturned three times.
'Were it not for the state of Louisiana's dogged determination to appeal against these rulings, Woodfox would almost certainly be a free man by now,' said Tessa Murphy, an Amnesty campaigner.
Wallace was released last week just days before he died of liver cancer. A federal judge who overturned his conviction said it would hold the state in contempt of court if it attempted to appeal the case.
For most of the last four decades, Woodfox has been confined to a small cell for 23 hours a day, denied access to meaningful human interaction and rehabilitation.
Prison records show that Albert has not committed any serious disciplinary infractions for years and that he doesn’t pose a threat to himself or others.
Take action: Demand the release of Albert Woodfox.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.