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BREAKING NEWS: Attorneys, Fed. Judge Urge 5th Circuit to Reconsider Secrecy in Tomorrow’s Execution

BREAKING NEWS: Attorneys, Fed. Judge Urge 5th Circuit to Reconsider Secrecy in Tomorrow’s Execution

Robert James Campbell is scheduled to be executed in Texas tomorrow. This morning, his attorneys filed a stay motion and an appeal with the Fifth Circuit, urging the court to reconsider its jurisprudence regarding the secrecy surrounding Texas’ lethal injection drugs, particularly in light of the recent horrific botched execution in Oklahoma. Campbells’ attorneys aren’t alone; a federal judge echoed their sentiment on Friday.  

Mr. Campbell’s “8th Amendment rights can only be protected if he is provided the information required to ensure a humane, non-torturous execution. By depriving [Mr. Campbell] … of the means to determine whether his rights will be violated, Defendants are effectively nullifying those rights.”

Last week, following the torturous execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, Mr. Campbell filed a civil rights action and stay motion in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. He’s seeking information about the source and testing of the drugs Texas plans to use in his lethal injection execution.  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. 

On Friday, May 9, 2014, Judge Keith P. Ellison of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas denied Mr. Campbell’s stay motion, 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."

Maurie Levin, Mr. Campbell’s attorney, commented, “The extreme secrecy which surrounded lethal injection in Oklahoma prior to Mr. Lockett’s execution led directly to the disastrous consequences. 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.”

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. This execution drug secrecy makes 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 in line 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.

Executions in Oklahoma and South Dakota that used compounded pentobarbital have had serious problems: 

Stay up to date: Follow Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty on Twitter and Facebook for breaking news. You can also visit their blog for more information on this and other death penalty issues in Texas. 

Tags: #lethal injection

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