Monday, a federal appeals court turned down a request for a stay of execution from a Texas inmate hours before he was scheduled to die.
However, a stay of execution was granted before the sentence could be carried out.
Hours before Texas could carry out the nation’s first execution since Oklahoma officials botched a lethal injection last month, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a dramatic unanimous ruling Tuesday that halted Robert Campbell’s execution and granted him a new appeal.
The court cited new defense evidence that Campbell is intellectually disabled, with an IQ of 69 — below the minimum threshold set by most courts that would make it unconstitutional for him to be executed.
“Campbell and his attorneys have not had a fair opportunity to develop Campbell’s claim of ineligibility for the death penalty,” the court wrote. “In light of the evidence we have been shown, we believe that Campbell must be given such an opportunity.”
Campbell, 41, was convicted of murder for the 1991 killing of a 20-year-old Houston bank teller who was robbed, raped and shot. After raping her he walked her at gunpoint in an open field and told her to run. He then fired at her missing her but fired again hitting her in the back and leaving her for dead. She was found twelve days later. He had been scheduled for execution at 6 p.m. today.
His attorneys had appealed to the courts and to Gov. Rick Perry for a stay of execution on two main grounds: that Campbell suffers from intellectual disability and that he is entitled to know the details of the state’s execution procedures, which have not been fully disclosed.
The attorneys argued that Texas should especially be compelled to disclose the details of its lethal injection procedure in light not only of Oklahoma’s botched execution, but problems with other lethal injections. They noted that when Jose Villegas, 39, was executed last month in Texas for murdering his girlfriend, he complained of burning, as did an Oklahoma inmate executed in January.
Late Monday, the 5th Circuit had rejected Campbell’s appeal based on Texas’ refusal to disclose all information related to its lethal injection protocols, saying there wasn’t enough evidence that the execution would violate constitutional prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment.
Texas Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott, a Republican campaigning for governor, has opposed staying Campbell’s execution. In a Monday court filing, he argued the state’s execution procedure is “vastly different” from Oklahoma’s, that pentobarbital has been used successfully thus far in Texas and testing showed the batch of the drug the state plans to use is potent and “free of contaminants.”
Campbell’s execution would have been the eighth this year in Texas, which puts more inmates to death than any other state — 515 since lethal injections began in 1982. In fact, Texas has executed more inmates than the next half-dozen busiest death penalty states combined (Virginia, Oklahoma, Florida, Missouri, Alabama and Georgia).