HUNTSVILLE — A serial killer was put to death Thursday in Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his lawyers’ demand that the state release information about where it gets its lethal injection drug.
Tommy Lynn Sells, 49, was the first inmate to be injected with a dose of newly replenished pentobarbital that Texas prison officials obtained to replace an expired supply of the powerful sedative.
Sells declined to give a statement. As the drug began flowing into his arms inside the death chamber in Huntsville, Sells took a few breaths, his eyes closed and he began to snore.
After less than a minute, he stopped moving. He was pronounced dead at 6:27 p.m. — 13 minutes after being given the pentobarbital.
Terry Harris, whose 13-year-old daughter, Kaylene Harris, was fatally stabbed by Sells in 1999 in South Texas, watched as Sells was executed, saying the injection was “way more gentle than what he gave out.”
“What a great day!” the father said as witnesses turned to leave the death house.
Sells’ lawyers had made a plea to the Supreme Court earlier in the day after a federal appeals court on Wednesday allowed the execution to remain on schedule. A lower court had stopped the execution Wednesday, ordering the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to reveal more information about its drug supplier, but the ruling was quickly tossed on appeal.
Sells, who claims to have committed as many as 70 killings across the U.S., also lost an appeal before the high court that contended his case should be reviewed because he had poor legal help during his murder trial.
In their drug argument, Sells’ attorneys argued they needed to know the name of the pharmacy now providing the state with pentobarbital used during executions in order to verify the drug’s quality and protect Sells from unconstitutional pain and suffering.
But the Supreme Court, like the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, sided with Texas prison officials, who argued that information about the drug supplier must be kept secret to protect the pharmacy from threats of violence. The high court justices did not elaborate on why they made the decision, which came about an hour before Sells’ scheduled execution.