HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — 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. When asked if he wanted to make a statement before his execution, Sells replied: "No."
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. CDT — 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."
"Basically, the dude just took a nap," the father told reporters later outside the prison.
The Supreme Court earlier in the day declined to halt the execution as Sells' attorneys sought more information from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice about the supplier of the new drug stock. State prison officials argued that the pharmacy must be kept secret to protect it from threats of violence.
Lawyers for Sells contended they needed to know the name of the pharmacy in order to verify the drug's quality and protect Sells from unconstitutional pain and suffering.
"My sister didn't get the constitutional pain and suffering," said Shawn Harris, the victim's brother, adding that Sells' punishment was "pretty easy" compared to what his sibling suffered: being stabbed 16 times and having her neck repeatedly slit.
A jury convicted Sells of capital murder in 2000 for the death of Kaylene Harris and slashing of her 10-year-old friend, Krystal Surles, who survived and helped police find Sells. The girls were attacked on New Year's Eve 1999 as they slept in the home of Kaylene Harris' family in Del Rio, about 150 miles west of San Antonio. The Harris family had befriended Sells at a community church.