Texas attorneys argued that the state's record shows that it can execute Death Row inmates without causing them needless suffering as they moved Wednesday to oppose a delay in the next scheduled execution.
In papers filed in federal court for Houston, Texas officials opposed any stay of execution for convicted murderer Robert James Campbell, scheduled to be executed Tuesday. Lawyers for Campbell argued that the recent botched execution of an inmate in Oklahoma shows that inmates should be given information on the supplier and quality of the drugs used in executions to prevent suffering that would violate the Constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
“The Constitution does not require the elimination of all risk of pain,” the state argued in its 32-page response. A constitutional problem arises, state officials contended, only if conditions are "sure or very likely to cause serious illness and needless suffering" and create "sufficiently imminent dangers.”
Texas authorities reported that they intend to use a single lethal injection of a five-gram dose of pentobarbital, a barbiturate, and argued that the state is not required to reveal the source or supplier of the drug. States, in general, have argued that it is permissible to keep execution details secret to prevent suppliers from facing political pressure.
A bipartisan panel this week recommended that the three-drug cocktail used by Oklahoma and other states be replaced with a single shot of an anesthetic or barbiturate, the current protocol in Texas.
In defending its plan, Texas notes that pentobarbital – unlike the drug, midazolam, used in Oklahoma – has been used effectively across the nation and in 33 executions in Texas.
“Defendants safely and successfully used pentobarbital from a licensed compounding pharmacy for seven executions in Texas, which was tested at 98.8% potency, and these executions all concluded without incident. Further, since switching to a different and undisclosed compounding pharmacy, the defendants have safely and successfully carried out three more executions without incident,” the state argued.
Oklahoma's execution protocol went awry in the April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett. During the proceeding, Lockett writhed in pain and made noises until the execution was stopped. He died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the execution process began, said Oklahoma officials, who blamed a burst vein.