Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Mental impairment claim stops Texas execution
First Published May 13 2014 06:50 pm • Last Updated May 13 2014 08:08 pm

Huntsville, Texas • A federal appeals court halted a convicted Texas killer’s execution Tuesday so his attorneys can pursue appeals by arguing he’s mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty.

Robert James Campbell, 41, would have been the first U.S. inmate executed since a botched execution in Oklahoma two weeks ago. His two appeals challenged the state’s plan to use a drug for which it will not reveal the source, as was the case with drugs used in Oklahoma, and claims of mental impairment.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"I am happy. The Lord prevailed," Campbell said from a cell just outside the Texas death chamber in Huntsville.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals halted his punishment about 2½ hours before he could have been taken to the death chamber, saying Campbell and his lawyers haven’t had a fair opportunity to develop the mental impairment claims.

The appeal before the 5th Circuit contended Campbell isn’t mentally competent for execution because he has a 69 IQ. Courts generally set a 70 IQ as the minimum threshold. Campbell’s attorneys, who went to the U.S. Supreme Court with last-day appeals, filed a petition to the high court even before the 5th Circuit ruled on the mental impairment issue.

Campbell was set to die for killing a 20-year-old Houston bank teller. His lawyers also made an issue of the drug to be used in the execution and the source not being identified. Like Oklahoma, Texas won’t say where it gets its execution drugs, saying it needs to protect the producer’s identity to prevent threats by death penalty opponents.

Unlike Oklahoma, which used a three-drug combination in the April 29 botched execution of Clayton Lockett, Texas uses a single dose of the sedative pentobarbital to kill inmates.

During Lockett’s lethal injection, the inmate’s vein collapsed, prompting Oklahoma prison officials to halt the procedure. Lockett later died of a heart attack. The investigation is ongoing, but Oklahoma authorities have suggested the trouble started with Lockett’s vein rather than the drugs.

Campbell’s attorneys, however, are among several arguing the incident demands greater execution drug transparency.

Lockett writhed and grimaced after the lethal injection was administered, and corrections officials did not realize not all the drug had entered his body for 21 minutes. Campbell’s attorneys say Lockett’s failed execution proves what many inmates have argued since states turned to made-to-order drugs: that the drugs put the inmates at risk of being subjected to inhumane pain and suffering.


story continues below
story continues below

"This is a crucial moment when Texas must recognize that death row prisoners can no longer presume safety unless full disclosure is compelled so that the courts can fully review the lethal injection drugs to be used and ensure that they are safe and legal," said attorney Maurie Levin.

Texas’ attorneys say Campbell’s claims are speculative and fall "far short" of demonstrating a significant risk of severe pain.

"The Constitution does not require the elimination of all risk of pain," argued Ellen Stewart-Klein, an assistant Texas attorney general.

Campbell’s execution would be the eighth this year for Texas, which kills more inmates than any other state, and the fourth in recent weeks to use the compounded pentobarbital. Texas invoked confidentiality in late March when it obtained a new supply of pentobarbital to replace a stock that had reached its expiration date.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late Monday rejected an appeal on the drug secrecy issue, saying mere speculation wasn’t enough to prove claims Campbell could be subjected to unconstitutionally cruel pain if executed with drugs from Texas’ unidentified provider.

Campbell was convicted of capital murder for the 1991 slaying of Alexandra Rendon, who was abducted while putting gas into her car, robbed, raped and shot.

"This was not a shoot and rob and run away," Rendon’s cousin, Israel Santana, said. "The agony she had to go through."

Rendon, who had been making wedding plans, was buried wearing her recently purchased wedding dress.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.