Today, attorneys for Robert James Campbell, who is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CT tonight in Texas, filed a stay motion and an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Court to address the constitutionality of the secrecy surrounding Texas’ lethal injection drugs, particularly in light of the recent horrific botched execution in Oklahoma. Mr. Campbell seeks information about the source and testing of the drugs Texas plans to use in his lethal injection execution. As the appeal notes, it was only recently, with its purchase of the most recent batch of lethal injection drugs, that Texas began to follow the path of secrecy shared by Oklahoma in the weeks leading up to Mr. Lockett’s horrific death.
A link to the appeal can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQSGo4WUlNN0xuZTg/edit
Maurie Levin, one of Mr. Campbell’s attorneys, commented, “The extreme secrecy which surrounded lethal injection in Oklahoma prior to Mr. Lockett’s execution led directly to disastrous consequences. This is a crucial moment when the courts must recognize that death row prisoners can no longer rely on the State’s bald assertion that the events in Oklahoma won’t repeat themselves in Texas. Unless the courts demand that Texas proceed with a commitment to transparency and accountability, there is an unacceptable risk that other prisoners will be subjected to the torturous death suffered by Mr. Lockett.”
An appeal filed yesterday with the Fifth Circuit was denied (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQakdBUFQyQndmMFk/edit), but had urged that court, as a federal judge did on Friday, to reconsider its jurisprudence regarding lethal injection and secrecy. That appeal noted that Mr. Campbell’s “8th Amendment rights can only be protected if he is provided the information required to ensure a humane, non-torturous execution.” The appeal also stated: “By depriving [Mr. Campbell] … of the means to determine whether his rights will be violated, Defendants are effectively nullifying those rights.” (p. 2). The Fifth Circuit’s opinion allotted one page to the analysis of the issues presented, and did not mention the events in Oklahoma or Mr. Lockett’s botched execution.
The decision of the District Court on Friday, May 9, 2014 was far more contemplative in its ruling, writing:
“The horrific narrative of Oklahoma’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29, 2014 requires sober reflection on the manner in which this nation administers the ultimate punishment. While the law currently does not permit injunctive relief, this Court urges the Fifth Circuit to reconsider its jurisprudence that seems to shield crucial elements of the execution process from open inquiry.”
Texas’ lethal injection protocol calls for a single dose of pentobarbital. Pentobarbital is no longer legally available in FDA-regulated form, but only from compounding pharmacies, which operate outside of FDA oversight, making it impossible to know if the drugs have been properly prepared and tested in order to ensure the execution will be carried out in a manner that comports with the Constitution. In addition, documents show that TDCJ is in possession in midazalom, the first drug used in the botched execution of Mr. Locket: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQOTVldW11MGRPVE0/edit?usp=sharing
Executions in Oklahoma and South Dakota that used compounded pentobarbital appeared to have had serious problems. On January 9, 2014, Oklahoma executed Michael Wilson, presumably also using compounded pentobarbital as the first drug in the three-drug formula. Prior to losing consciousness, Mr. Wilson cried out, “I feel my whole body burning.” Those were his last words. The State has refused to provide any information about what might have gone wrong in Mr. Wilson’s execution, but expert pharmacologist Larry D. Sasich, PharmD, MPH, FASHP, signed a sworn affidavit stating, “It is my opinion that Mr. Wilson’s reaction is consistent with contaminated pentobarbital sodium injection.”
Dr. Sasich’s affidavit is here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQNDBZYVF5YUV4THM/edit
The sworn statement of another anesthesiologist, Dr. Waisel, is here: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQQ0l5b1RHUG0wLVE/edit
In October 2012, in South Dakota, Eric Robert was executed using compounded pentobarbital. Witnesses reported that he “appeared to clear his throat and gasp heavily, at which point his skin turned a blue-purplish hue. Mr. Robert opened his eyes and they remained open until his death, and his heart continued beating for 10 minutes after he ceased to breathe.”
On April 14, 2014, in Texas, Jose Villegas was executed with compounded pentobarbital. “As a journalist witness wrote: “Just as the dose of pentobarbital began taking effect, he said, ‘It does kind of burn. Goodbye.’ He gasped several times, then began breathing quietly. (pp. 11-12 of the civil rights complaint: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQakdBUFQyQndmMFk/edit?pli=1 ).” Additionally, there have been multiple documented problematic executions in Texas via lethal injection, detailed on pp. 13-14 of the civil rights complaint.
Additionally, Mr. Campbell’s case contains other areas of concern including the fact that he is a person with intellectual disability, and that the state failed to disclose evidence of testing which showed his intellectual disability. The Arc, a national organization for individuals with intellectual and developmental disability, issued a letter yesterday condemning Mr. Campbell’s execution, which can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQQlFnOVhVNUNEeE0/edit. A press release detailing more about Mr. Campbell’s intellectual disability is here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQNnN1RmVZWGVPNkU/edit
For more information, including information about the Texas lethal injection protocol, drugs in the TDCJ’s possession, background on previous disputes between TDCJ and pharmacies, do not hesitate to contact counsel for Mr. Campbell, Maurie Levin at firstname.lastname@example.org and (512) 294-1540.