Image: Tony Gutierrez /Associated Press
The Texas state government plans to carry out the execution of Robert James Campbell on Tuesday despite the condemned man's Monday appeal for a delay.
Campbell, who was convicted of raping and murdering a woman, has asked for a stay of execution through his lawyers because the government won't reveal where it obtained the drugs that will be used for his lethal injection. The convict's lawyers have tried to use a botched execution in Oklahoma in late April as grounds to legitimize Campbell's appeal, but a federal court of appeals denied the motion. Campbell's lawyers have appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court.
Clayton Lockett, who was also convicted of raping and murdering a woman, was executed at the Oklahoma penitentiary in the city of McAlester on April 29, but only after a vein in his arm burst and the toxins injected into his body caused him to lurch up in his chair, shake and say "man, something's wrong." A catheter was eventually inserted into Lockett's leg, and he died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the injection. After the botched procedure, a second execution scheduled for that day was postponed.
The incident put a spotlight on the implementation of the death penalty in general, but also called into question the origin of the three-drug drug cocktail administered to Lockett.
Lockett was given a mix of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride — one drug to induce unconsciousness, one to stop his breathing and another to stop his heart.
Officials in states across the country have had to come up with different toxic cocktails because pharmaceutical companies have begun to refuse to supply drugs for lethal injections, saying they are afraid of political and possibly physical attacks. Calls for transparency about where lethal injection drugs in Oklahoma come from were supported by a state court this past March. The state's supreme court declared that the execution should be delayed, but Republican Governor Mary Fallin pushed forward anyway.
But Texas executions use just one drug in lethal injections, pentobarbital, which is commonly used by veterinarians to euthanize animals and can stop a human's cardiovascular system when a high dosage is administered. The one-drug method is preferred over a three-drug cocktail, even by some opponents of the death penalty, according to the New York Times.
Texas has executed 515 people since 1976, by far the most of any state in the U.S., and its drug of choice has been used to kill 33 people there.
Neither Texas nor Oklahoma reveal the source of their drugs, something Campbell's lawyers pointed out in their request for a stay in the execution. Some have argued that there is no way to know if the drugs violate laws prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment if no one but the government is allowed to know who produces the drugs, but state governments argue there is no other way to shield drug companies from threats. Texas also did not reveal how it tests the potency of its pentobarbital, according to the New York Times.
Despite the rate at which Texas carries out executions, the state does not have a perfect record when it comes to lethal injections.
In 1988, a tube full of toxic drugs inserted into the arm of Raymond Landry began leaking, causing the execution to take longer than expected, according to the New York Times. This past April, Jose Villegas, 39, who was convicted of stabbing three people to death, reportedly said he was experiencing a burning sensation as the pentobarbital began to run throughout his body. A clause in the 8th amendment tot he United States Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment that is excessive or disproportionate to the offense committed.
Despite this and 140 exonerations in Texas—including 12 death row prisoners—53% of citizens there support the death penalty over life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Campbell's lawyers are also trying to appeal his execution because they claim he has a mental disability, which shows that he could be classified with mental retardation. In the 2002 case Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the execution of such an individual is unconstitutional based on the 8th amendment's provision against cruel and unusual punishment.
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