At the center of the issue is Texas' new, undisclosed lethal drug supplier, which it was forced to use after its previous supply of drugs expired.
Sells' execution was halted at first after his lawyers successfully argued to a Texas district court that the state was putting their client at risk of undue harm by not revealing information about their new lethal-drug supplier. (Via KENS)
But that ruling was tossed almost immediately by a federal appeals court, which explained speculation about Texas' pentobarbital supplier is not enough to halt executions.
Sells' legal team then made a last-effort appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sided with Texas officials who argued that information about the pharmacy providing the drugs must be kept secret to protect it from threats of violence. The justices did not go into further detail on the decision. (Via KVUE)
Sells' case is just the latest in a series of legal challenges regarding lethal injection drugs since they began to fall in short supply from traditional producers.
Many drug makers, especially those in Europe where opposition to the death penalty is the strongest, now refuse to provide pentobarbital to be used for capital punishment. The resulting shortage has forced state officials to obtain the drug from U.S. compounding pharmacies, which are not heavily regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. (Via KTBC, FDA)
For that reason, Sell's lawyers, and lawyers from several other states, have challenged the drug's effectiveness. State officials say their drugs contain the commonly accepted potency. However, lawyers like Sells' say that without the pharmacy's information, that claim can't be confirmed. (Via KDFW)
Sells received a death sentence for the 1999 murder of 13-year-old Kaylene Harris in South Texas. According to local media reports, the pentobarbital used in Sells' execution did not result in any noticeable complications.