Lethal Injection

Botched Execution Fallout: Texas Inmate Eyes Challenge

Image: The "death bed" in the execution chamber in Huntsville, Texas

The "death bed" in the execution chamber in Huntsville, Texas. DAVID J. PHILLIP / AP file

The Texas death row inmate slated to be the next prisoner executed in the United States may try to use the lethal injection debacle in Oklahoma to win a reprieve.

Robert James Campbell, 41, is due to be put to death May 13, for the 1991 rape and murder of a young bank teller who was abducted from a gas station and shot to death.

"We are still considering what steps we might take to ensure the torture that occurred in Oklahoma will not take place on May 13," said Maurie Levin, one of Campbell's lawyers.

Texas uses different execution drugs than the ones involved in Tuesday's execution of Clayton Lockett, which was so badly botched that even President Obama spoke out about it.


It's still unclear exactly what went wrong in Lockett's procedure, which was halted when he appeared to regain consciousness and writhe in pain.

Prison officials were trying out a new protocol — midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride —after running out of their previous execution drug.

They struggled for an hour to find a good injection site in Lockett's arms or legs before running an IV line into his groin, they said.

They contend his vein collapsed, stopping all the drugs from getting into his bloodstream. Lockett had a faint heartbeat when the execution was called off, but he died 10 minutes later.

No official cause of death has been given, but if it turns out a vein failure was to blame, that could mute the impact of the bungle on the growing debate over lethal-injection drugs nationwide.

After Lockett's death, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said the agency has no plans to change its protocol.

"The Oklahoma incident does not appear to be related to the choice of drugs," he noted.

Levin said that regardless of why Lockett's lethal injection went wrong, executions in Oklahoma and Texas have something in common: Both states refuse to say where they obtain their execution drugs.

She also noted that while Texas has been using pentobarbital to kill prisoners, it has a stockpile of midazolam, the sedative used on Lockett and in the controversial execution of Dennis McGuire in Ohio earlier this year.

"I think if the states, including Texas, insist on opacity — a lack of transparency — then this is inevitably going to happen again," Levin said.

In the past, the Texas attorney general's office has told corrections officials they must disclose the source of their drugs.

But a specialty pharmacy that was publicly identified last fall as a supplier demanded a return of its products for fear of protests, hate mail and lawsuits.

Now, the suppliers' names are being kept secret and the courts have refused to stop any executions while defense lawyers fight to make the details public.

Robert James Campbell has a May 13 execution date. Texas Department of Criminal Justice