Lethal Injection

Drug Swap Sparks Hearing on Serial Killer Alfredo Prieto’s Execution

A convicted serial killer caught a break Wednesday when a federal judge ordered a hearing on his complaint that Virginia "recklessly" obtained its lethal injection chemicals from Texas.

Alfred Prieto, 49, was sentenced to death in two states for four slayings and is suspected in several other murders.

He is due to be put to death in Virginia on Thursday evening, but filed an emergency motion after learning that Virginia had obtained the pentobarbital for the execution not from a pharmacy but from the Texas prison system.

Prieto's lawyers argued that Virginia has no information about the "quality and authenticity" of the drugs and can't guarantee they won't cause an excruciating death and violate the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Texas has confirmed it supplied three vials of pentobarbital and tested them for purity, but refused to say where the drugs came from, citing a secrecy law.

U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga ordered a hearing Thursday afternoon where he will decide whether to prevent the 9 p.m. execution so the matter can be explored further.