BATON ROUGE – Convicted murderers Shedran Williams and Todd Wessinger, who have been on death row since being sentenced in the 1990s, are seeking to join a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the method of execution used in Louisiana.
Louisiana will not be carrying out executions this year or in 2017 because of a court order challenging the constitutionality of the state’s lethal injection process. According to deathpenaltyinfo.org, a federal judge is delaying proceedings on the state’s lethal injections for 18 months, at the request of the Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. That means Louisiana could resume executions no earlier than January 2018.
The state’s execution drug expired in June 2015, meaning Louisiana did not have enough drugs to carry out executions. Louisiana law allows for either a one-drug execution using the drug pentobarbital or a two-drug formula of midazolam and hydromorphone.
Louisiana last had an execution in 2010. Since that time, the state has had to rewrite its execution protocol several times.
“We are not prepared to give a comment at this time,” Mercedes Montanges of the Promise of Justice Initiative in New Orleans told the Louisiana Record. She represents Williams, along with fellow Promise of Justice Initiative attorney Cecelia Trenticosta Kappel and attorney Letty DiGiulio.
Kappel, Montanges and New Orleans lawyer Soren Gisleson represent Wessinger.
Williams was sentenced to death for murdering Baton Rouge Police Lt. Vickie Wax in 2004 outside of a now-closed Walmart store where she was working security.
Wessinger was sentenced to be executed for the 1995 killing of Stephanie Guzzardo and David Breakwell, employees of a now-closed Calendar’s Restaurant. Last July a federal judge threw out the sentence and ordered a new penalty hearing.
Motions were filed by Williams and Wessinger on June 28. The two are seeking to join in a suit filed in 2012 by convicted killers Jesse Hoffman and Christopher Sepulvado, who had both been sentenced to death. Sepuvaldo had been scheduled to be executed in 2014. He was convicted of the 1992 killing of his 6-year-old stepson Allen Mercer after he fatally beat and scalded the boy.
Hoffman received a death sentence for the 1996 kidnapping, rape and shooting of Mary “Molly” Elliot of Covington.
Kevan Brumfield joined the suit in 2014. Brumfield had been sentenced to death for the 1993 killing of Baton Rouge Police Cpl. Betty Smothers, but he was recently re-sentenced to life in prison after he was found intellectually disabled and ineligible to be executed.
Attorney John DiGiulio of the firm Manasseh, Gill, Knipe, Belanger offered a look at the lawsuit.
“My take is that the case is seeking transparency for the process of executions,” he told the Louisiana Record.
Williams' and Wessinger’s requests to intervene in the suit are pending before U.S. Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes.
“The state has stayed the cases twice as it continues to search for a viable constitutional execution method,” John DiGiulio said.