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When will a stay of execution be granted?

Convicted serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells was executed last Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to issue a stay to consider his lawyers' bid for more information on the drugs that would be used to kill him. A stay of execution is a court order that temporarily suspends the execution for a specific reason. Sells' attorneys had sought more information about the manufacturer of the execution drug. However, that stay was denied and Sells was executed.

Tommy Lynn Sells was sentenced to death for the 1999 stabbing death of 13-year old Kaylene Harris. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison for abducting 9-year old Mary Beatrice Perez in 1999 and stabbing her to death. He has been linked to the deaths of more than a dozen people and police think he is responsible for approximately twenty-two deaths in total. However, on an interview with Discovery Channel's Most Evil with Columbia University forensic psychiatrist and personality expert Dr. Michael H. Stone, Sells claimed to have killed more than 70 people. He has been classified and defined as a dangerous "serial killer."

On January 3, 2014, a Del Rio judge set Sells' execution date for April 3, 2014. In an attempt to delay the proceeding, Sells' lawyers, Maurie Levin and Jonathan Ross, sought more information about the manufacturer of the execution drug. "It is our belief that how we choose to execute prisoners reflects on us as a society," the two attorneys said in a statement. "Without transparency about lethal injections, particularly the source and purity of drugs to be used, it is impossible to ensure that executions are humane and constitutional."

The stay sought after by Sells' attorneys was denied and he was executed on April 3, 2014. Sells was pronounced dead about 13 minutes after he was injected with a dose of newly obtained pentobarbital. Sells' reaction to the drugs was reported differently by various reports. However, family members of slain victims expressed their relief after the execution. Mary Torres, the grandmother of Mary Beatrice Perez, expressed that "whatever went through his veins, he went too quick for my satisfaction." Terry Harris, father of Kaylene Harris, expressed a similar emotion about Sells' lethal injection. Harris stated that it was "way more gentle than what he gave out."

Source: ABA Journal, Serial killer is executed after Supreme Court refuses stay in bid for drug information, Debra Cassens Weiss, 4/4/14

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