While Oklahoma will not be putting anyone to death on May 13, its neighbor to the south will be.
A federal judge has refused to issue a stay of execution for Robert James Campbell, a death row inmate who had been suing to learn details of how Texas will carry out the procedure. This means Campbell could be executed just two weeks after the gruesomely botched execution of Oklahoma prisoner Clayton Lockett under essentially secret conditions.
The Oklahoma Attorney General's office agreed to a six month stay of execution for Charles Warner, whose execution had been set for May 13, on Thursday. Warner had been scheduled to die shortly after Lockett, but Gov. Mary Fallin moved the date when she ordered an investigation into why Lockett's execution went so horribly wrong. Both Fallin and Attorney General Scott Pruitt have said there should be no executions in Oklahoma until the investigation is complete.
"It is deeply shameful that Texas has more interest in protecting the identity of the supplying compounding pharmacy than they do in ensuring that they carry out executions in a humane manner," Maurie Levin, Campell's lawyer, said in a statement Friday. "Without transparency about the source, testing, purity and efficacy of this drug, there is no way of knowing whether it will cause a prolonged, torturous death."
Campbell's attorneys sought information about the compounding pharmacy that mixed the drug to be used in the execution. Texas uses a method that requires only one drug, pentobarbital, that has become scarce in recent years since manufacturers have objected to its use in capital punishment.
When another Oklahoma inmate was put to death using compounded pentobarbital in January, he said before falling unconscious, "I feel my whole body burning." Legal experts and anti-death penalty advocates have argued that the risk of pain and suffering from the methods currently used is too high, both from incorrectly mixed or injected drugs or inept execution staffers.
Other executions using compounded pentobarbital, which is what the state says it will be using, have caused grave concern, including the execution in Oklahoma in January of Michael Lee Wilson whose last words were, “I feel my whole body burning.
A panel of experts recommended in a report released May 7 that states adopt a one drug protocol for all executions and stop using multi-drug combinations and untested methods. It also recommended that states be more transparent about their execution protocols, allowing the public to comment on proposed changes.
Two inmates also sued Texas to get information about the drugs to be used in their executions. A judge briefly stayed their executions, but that order was overturned, and Tommy Lynn Sells and Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas were executed in April. Texas executes more people than any other state. Campbell will be the eighth put to death in 2014.