Washington (AFP) – A Texas man on Tuesday is to be the first U.S. inmate put to death since a botched lethal injection procedure in neighboring Oklahoma ignited a wrenching national debate over the death penalty.
Barring a last minute stay, death row inmate Robert James Campbell is to be put to death by state penal authorities in Huntsville, Texas at 6:00 p.m. local time.
The execution follows that of Clayton Lockett, a convicted killer and rapist, who died on April 29, 43 minutes after the start of a lethal injection process that should have taken just a dozen minutes.
Lockett’s vein collapsed during his lethal injection, forcing prison officials to halt the procedure midway. He later died of a heart attack.
The condemned man appeared to be in significant pain throughout the procedure.
Some death penalty opponents assert that it was a direct result of the untested cocktail of lethal drugs that had been used by Oklahoma penal officials to kill him.
Campbell is seeking a stay on the grounds that he may be subjected to an execution as painful as the one suffered by Lockett.
An appeal lodged by his attorneys on Monday has been denied, and his case now is before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Details about Lockett’s bungled execution last month became fodder for anti-death penalty activists who say that the eyes of the world will be on Texas.
“There’s been a lot of discussions going on because of what happened in Oklahoma,” said Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center.
“Whereas usually in Texas hardly anybody knows executions occur, now everybody is going to be watching this one,” Dieter said.
U.S. states using the death penalty face critical shortages of lethal injection drugs after European firms stopped supplying pentobarbital, prompting Oklahoma and other U.S. states to turn to compounding pharmacies to supply untested execution drugs instead.
After encountering problems putting Lockett to death, Oklahoma last month delayed for 6 months the execution of another inmate who was to have died the same day as Lockett, while the state reviewed its death penalty protocols.
President Barack Obama called last month’s bungled execution “deeply disturbing” and ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to review how capital punishment is carried out in the 32 states that practice it.
Prison officials across the U.S. have refused to disclose the name and origin of drugs they are using to put inmates to death.
In his court petition seeking a stay, Campbell on Monday said he was entitled to know which combination of lethal drugs was being used by officials to take his life.
Campbell has the right to be “provided the information required to ensure a humane, non-torturous execution,” his attorney Maurie Levin wrote, invoking the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual” punishment.
Texas Governor Rick Perry is a staunch supporter of capital punishment and stands by his state’s death penalty procedures.
Besides Campbell, other inmates are challenging states’ untested death penalty drugs.
Missouri inmate Russell Bucklew, due to die next week, is seeking a stay based upon the potentially “excruciating” drug regimen, while Pennsylvania death row inmate Richard Poplawski is appealing to get the names and source of his execution drugs.
AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm