Death Penalty

Capital Tonight: Death penalty opponents respond to last-minute stay of execution

A Texas execution planned for Tuesday was called off just hours before it was set to happen. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay based on new claims that inmate Robert Campbell was intellectually disabled, which would make him ineligible for the death penalty.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we spoke to the head of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Kristin Houlé, about the botched Oklahoma execution, the secrecy surrounding execution drugs, and whether attitudes about the death penalty are changing.

SENATE LIMITS

The fight for lieutenant governor continues, but what happens if the Senate decides to strip the eventual winner of some of his authority? We spoke to Harvey Kronberg of the Quorum Report about the ways that scenario has played out before and how it could happen again.

CAPITAL COMMENTATORS

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is doubling down on his endorsement of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst by appearing in a new campaign ad. Political strategists Harold Cook and Ted Delisi weighed in on that development and more.

Court stays execution of Robert Campbell

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a stay of execution for Texas death row inmate Robert Campbell, who was scheduled to die Tuesday evening. The ruling is based on Campbell’s attorneys’ argument that new evidence shows Campbell is intellectually disabled, and therefore ineligible for the death penalty.

“The Fifth Circuit’s decision today creates an opportunity for Texas to rise above its past mistakes and seek a resolution of this matter that will better serve the interests of all parties and the public,” Robert Owen, one of Campbell’s attorneys, said in a statement. “Mr. Campbell has been fully evaluated by a highly qualified psychologist – a member of the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists, appointed to that post by Governor Rick Perry – who confirms he is a person with mental retardation. Therefore, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, he is ineligible for the death penalty.”

Campbell’s attorneys want their client’s sentence to be reduced to life imprisonment.

Part of the three-judge panel’s written decision reads, “Because of the unique circumstances of this case, Campbell and his attorneys have not had a fair opportunity to develop Campbell’s claim of ineligibility for the death penalty. In light of the evidence we have been shown, we believe that Campbell must be given such an opportunity.”

Today’s decision comes two weeks after a botched execution in Oklahoma, where the inmate sat up, spoke and eventually died of a heart attack. Campbell’s attorneys had initially requested a stay based on that execution, arguing that Texas’ secrecy about its drug manufacturers could lead to the same outcome. That request was denied by the Fifth Circuit of Appeals.

Capital Tonight: More questions about Texas’ execution drugs

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is responding to questions about its death penalty procedures, following a botched execution in Oklahoma in which an inmate returned to consciousness before eventually dying of a heart attack.

Texas currently uses one large dose of the drug pentobarbital for lethal injections, not a mixed-drug method like Oklahoma. But newly released documents show the state has one of the drugs Oklahoma used in stock.

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we learned more about the kind of lethal drugs the TDCJ has on hand, and how opponents and supporters of the death penalty are reacting.

TURNING TEXAS BLUE

The numbers suggest that Texas is a very Republican state, but Democrats believe they can prove otherwise by getting more people to the polls in November. We sat down with Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa to talk about new support for Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a perceived snub from Democratic Governor’s Association and their plans for the summer convention.

ON THE AGENDA

Wednesday brought a new wave of back-and-forth attacks in the Republican runoff race for lieutenant governor. The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg joined us to talk about that development and more.