Inmate cites Oklahoma ordeal to stop his execution

FILE - This May 27, 2008 file photo shows the gurney in Huntsville, Texas, where Texas' condemned are strapped down to receive a lethal dose of drugs. Texas prison officials say they’ve secured a new supply of pentobarbital that will allow the nation’s most active death penalty state to continue executions. Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark also said the prison agency is not identifying the source of the new drug inventory because of threats made against previous suppliers when they were identified as a provider of lethal injection drugs. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)
FILE - This May 27, 2008 file photo shows the gurney in Huntsville, Texas, where Texas' condemned are strapped down to receive a lethal dose of drugs. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Attorneys for a condemned killer insisted his execution this week should be stopped because he risks the same ordeal experienced recently by an Oklahoma inmate whose lethal injection was aborted by the failure of an intravenous line carrying the deadly drugs.

Robert Campbell’s execution scheduled for Tuesday evening would be the first nationally since Clayton Lockett’s bungled punishment April 29 in Oklahoma. Lockett died of an apparent heart attack after Oklahoma prison officials stopped his execution.

Lawyers for Campbell filed appeals to block his execution, which would be the eighth this year in Texas and the fourth in recent weeks to use a lethal dose of pentobarbital Texas prison officials obtained from a compounding pharmacy they’ve refused to identify.

Three Texas executions with the new stock of the sedative were carried out last month without incident.

But Campbell’s attorneys — citing the Oklahoma case that President Barack Obama said was “inhumane” — renewed arguments raised in earlier Texas cases that the secrecy meant they could not verify the potency of the pentobarbital and competency of the pharmacy providing it, meaning Campbell could be subjected to unconstitutional pain and suffering.

“Frighteningly, Texas is pursuing the path of secrecy in the midst of these deeply troubling events, and even in the immediate wake of events in Oklahoma,” said Maurie Levin, Campbell’s lead attorney in a federal civil rights suit. “Information about the source of lethal injections drugs — particularly in today’s fraught arena — is vital.”

Attorneys for the state of Texas disputed Levin’s arguments, saying they were “speculative” and did not demonstrate a significant risk of pain. Texas was not using a new method of execution and did not employ the three-drug procedure used in Oklahoma, they said. Texas had carried out three executions with the new drug supply and courts already had ruled the process was acceptable, the state said.

The Texas procedures are “vastly different from the situation in Oklahoma in which an admittedly new protocol was used,” said Ellen Stewart-Klein, an assistant attorney general.

A federal judge in Houston last week rejected Campbell’s appeal on the secrecy issue, saying his hands were tied because of rulings from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in previous cases. But U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison urged the 5th Circuit to reconsider the issue because it seemed to “shield crucial elements of the execution process form open inquiry.”

Texas obtained a new execution drug supply and invoked secrecy in late March as a previous stock was reaching its expiration date. The confidentiality was necessary to keep the provider, a compounding pharmacy, from threats of violence from death penalty opponents, prison officials said.

Campbell’s civil rights lawsuit joined another appeal Monday in the 5th Circuit that contended Campbell was mentally impaired, making him ineligible for execution under U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Campbell, 41, was convicted of capital murder for the January 1991 slaying of a 20-year-old Houston bank teller, Alexandra Rendon, who was abducted while putting gas into her car, robbed, raped and shot. A companion of Campbell’s, Leroy Lewis, pleaded guilty, received 35 years in prison and is now on parole. Campbell was 18 at the time of the slaying and on parole after serving four months of a five-year sentence for robbery.

“I can’t imagine her last moments,” Rendon’s cousin, Israel Santana, said last week. “She had no chance. Think about what hell she endured … the agony she had to go through.”

Even before the Oklahoma problems, questions about execution procedures had drawn renewed attention from defense attorneys and death penalty opponents in recent months. States have scrambled to find new sources of execution drugs after several drugmakers, including many based in Europe, refused to sell their products for use in executions.

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