Updated — 5 p.m. ET
Only hours before the scheduled execution of Robert James Campbell in the Huntsville death chamber in Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit granted a motion to stay his execution on the grounds that he is intellectually disabled and therefore constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty.
One of Campbell's attorneys, Robert C. Owen, said in a statement:
"Today the Fifth Circuit has ruled that Texas may not proceed with the scheduled execution of Robert Campbell, a man whose lifelong mental retardation was not proven until new evidence, long hidden by prosecutors and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, very recently came to light."
Owen added that Campbell had been evaluated by a highly qualified member of the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists who confirmed that he was "a person with mental retardation." According the the U.S. Supreme Court's 2002 decision in the case of Atkins v. Virginia, this makes Campbell ineligible for the death penalty.
A spokesperson from the Texas Attorney General's office told BuzzFeed: "We are reviewing the court's order. No further comment."
Texas death row inmate Robert James Campbell was scheduled to be executed on Tuesday for the abduction, rape, and murder of a Houston bank teller in 1991.
In Oklahoma, Clayton Lockett's vein collapsed during his lethal injection, prompting prison officials to halt the execution. Lockett (left) later died of a heart attack.
Lockett appeared to regain consciousness and writhe and moan in pain mid-execution after he was administered a new drug combination being tested for the first time in Oklahoma.
The state eventually agreed to delay the death of Charles Warner (right), who was scheduled for execution on the same night as Lockett, until Nov. 13, 2014.
The botched attempt stirred a nationwide debate about the drugs used to kill death row inmates and the risk of torturous outcomes caused by the state's lack of transparency surrounding executions.
The attention is now on Texas where Robert James Campbell could become the first person to be executed since the Oklahoma debacle.
Campbell's lawyers have asked for a stay of execution, citing the recent events in Oklahoma. A motion filed in Houston's federal court stated, "There is a substantial risk that Mr. Campbell's execution could be as horrific as Mr. Lockett's."
Campbell's lawyers have now filed a stay motion and an appeal asking the Supreme Court to address the constitutionality of the secrecy surrounding Texas' lethal injection drugs.
After stay motions were rejected by the district court and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Campbell's attorneys filed a cert petition Tuesday afternoon asking the Supreme Court of the United States to hear the appeal.
In a press release, Cambell's attorney, Maurie Levin, said, "This is a crucial moment when the courts must recognize that death row prisoners can no longer rely on the State's bald assertion that the events in Oklahoma won't repeat themselves in Texas. Unless the courts demand that Texas proceed with a commitment to transparency and accountability, there is an unacceptable risk that other prisoners will be subjected to the torturous death suffered by Mr. Lockett."
In a Fifth Circuit appeal filed on Monday, which was later rejected, Campbell’s lawyers urged the court to halt the execution and reconsider its stance on the state’s secrecy surrounding the drugs in light of Lockett’s "horrifically botched execution."
Texas says that it uses a single drug, the barbiturate pentobarbital, instead of the three-drug regimen Oklahoma used last month.
Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general, said that pentobarbital has been used successfully in 33 executions in Texas.
A second appeal to the 5th Circuit cites other concerns including the state's withholding of information about his low IQ score that would make him ineligible for capital punishment.
Campbell will be executed in the Huntsville death chamber as planned on Tuesday at 6 p.m. CT. He will be the eight person to be executed by Texas so far in 2014.
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at email@example.com.
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