A federal judge in Texas late Friday declined to block the scheduled execution of a killer set for next week, based on fallout from last week's bungled execution in Oklahoma.
Robert James Campbell, 41, is set to be executed Tuesday for the kidnap, rape and murder of a bank teller in Houston in 1991. Campbell's lawyers say his execution is set to be conducted under the same 'shroud of secrecy' that they claim contributed to the bungled execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed in pain as the lethal needle became dislodged from a vein, before his execution had to be halted. Lockett later died of a heart attack.
"It is unthinkable that the state of Texas intends to proceed with Mr. Campbell's execution," Maurie Levin, a law professor at the University of Texas and Campbell's appellate attorney, told 1200 WOAI news. "It is deeply shameful that Texas has more interest in protecting the identity of the supplying compounding pharmacy than they do in ensuring that they carry out executions in a humane manner."
Levin and other civil rights lawyers have been fighting to force Texas, which executes more convicts than any other state, to reveal the source of the pentobarbital that is uses in lethal injections. The Texas prison system has refused, saying disclosure would subject the pharmacy that supplies the drugs to demonstrations by death penalty opponents.
"Without transparency about the source, testing, purity, and efficacy of this drug, there is no way of knowing whether it will cause a prolonged, torturous death," Levin said.
Oklahoma used a three drug cocktail in last week's execution, which is different from the single drug used in Texas. But death penalty opponents say the secrecy that surrounds Texas' administration of capital punishment would allow the state to quickly switch execution protocols without the public knowing.
Levin didn't say if an appeal of today's ruling is likely.
The source of execution drugs has become a leading issue for opponents of capital punishment. Most major pharmaceutical companies refuse to allow their products to be used for executions, and many drug companies have branches in Europe, where the European Union forbids drugs made by European-based firms from being used for lethal injections in the United States.
This is forcing states which carry out executions to rely on small, independent 'compounding pharmacies,' which death penalty opponents say are outside of Food and Drug Administration oversight.
Levin pointed out that Oklahoma has issued a moratorium on executions following the Lockett incident, and suggested that Texas should do the same.
"Yet Texas is vigorously pursuing Mr. Campbell's execution, at the same time they have decided to suddenly shroud the process in secrecy," she said. "This is unacceptable and should not be tolerated in a civilized society."