The Louisiana Supreme Court issued a stay Wednesday in the scheduled March 14 execution of River Parishes serial killer Daniel Blank, who was convicted in five brutal slayings of well-to-do, older residents in the mid-1990s.

A state district judge in Ascension Parish had signed an execution order in mid-January after rejecting Blank’s post-conviction appeal arguments last year and upheld in his 1999 first-degree murder conviction for the fatal beating of 72-year-old Lillian Philippe, of Gonzales.

But Blank’s defense attorneys had said that despite the judge’s ruling, her execution order was premature and a waste of taxpayer money for several reasons: the layers of appeal still available to Blank at the state and federal level, the lack of drugs available to conduct the execution and a separate stay that a federal judge in Baton Rouge had previously issued for all executions in Louisiana at least until July.

Pam Laborde, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections, said the court notified her agency of the stay by telephone Wednesday. Valerie Willard, spokeswoman for the state’s highest court, said the decision to grant the stay was unanimous.

Blank’s defense attorneys had asked the high court to order Judge Jessie LeBlanc of the 23rd Judicial District to withdraw her Jan. 14 execution warrant, one of his attorneys said Wednesday, but, at the urging of the state Attorney General’s Office, the Supreme Court instead agreed to stay the execution itself.

Chuck Long, the 23rd Judicial District attorney who prosecuted Blank, charged Blank’s attorneys are simply delaying the process in hopes that the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court changes and the death penalty is found unconstitutional. Conservative stalwart and staunch death penalty supporter Justice Antonin Scalia died Saturday.

“That’s what their game is,” Long said.

He also charged Blank’s innocence is no longer an issue after the Supreme Court previously upheld his conviction in the Philippe murder. The writs his attorneys are now seeking are discretionary, Long claimed.

But Gary Clements, a Blank defense attorney with the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana, said Blank has a legal right to post-conviction appeal through the state Supreme Court.

He said he filed Blank’s writ with that court Feb. 1 seeking to overturn LeBlanc’s ruling denying Blanks’s post-conviction appeal last year and is waiting on Long’s response. Clements said he can’t base his cases on dreams of changing political winds at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It’s an interesting point of view, but I don’t think it holds a lot of water,” he said.

Earlier this week, the state Department Public Safety and Corrections confirmed what Clements had said about the availability of drugs for the execution: the “Department does not currently have in its possession the drug(s) necessary to carry out the March 14, 2016, scheduled execution of Daniel Blank.”

But the department added the statement that it would continue to follow protocols that lay out the procedures done in the weeks leading up to a scheduled execution “until legal actions dictate otherwise.”

In its statement Monday, corrections officials distributed forms for media members to fill out if they wished to witness Blank’s execution.

Blank, 53, who is from St. James Parish but lived in Sorrento at the time of the slayings in the mid-1990s, was convicted in four other slayings beside Philippe’s. Blank has four life sentence in those convictions after pleas and various appeals and only faces the death penalty in the Philippe case. He was never tried in a sixth slaying, which authorities say was the first he committed, that of Victor Rossi, 41, of St. Amant, on Oct. 27, 1996.

Blank offered a 12-hour confession to authorities admitting to the murders and other armed robberies. Clements has argued Blank was highly susceptible to suggestion, though, especially after the hours of interrogation that preceded his confession.

LeBlanc rejected that and the rest of Blank’s appeals claims, which mostly focused on ineffective counsel at trial.

Even with Blank’s execution less than a month away and the Department of Public Safety and Corrections instituting procedures in advance of the execution, Clements expressed confidence on Tuesday that DOC officials would not conduct the execution due to its prematurity and the lack of drugs to actually perform it.

“They can do all that, but it’s semantics because they don’t have any way to do anything,” Clements said Tuesday.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.