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May 13, 2014

Texas set for first execution since botched Okla. case

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Texas will carry out the first U.S. execution today since a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma last month, unless attorneys for a man convicted of murdering a Houston bank teller can convince a court that he runs the same risk of the punishment going awry.

Attorneys for Texas condemned killer Robert Campbell cited in their appeal the Oklahoma case of Clayton Lockett, who died of an apparent heart attack on April 29 after Oklahoma prison officials stopped his execution.

Oklahoma has agreed to a six-month stay of execution for another inmate while the state conducts an investigation of the death of Lockett, who began writhing, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head after he was injected with lethal drugs last month. It could take at least two months for a complete autopsy report to be received, Oklahoma officials said Monday.

Campbell’s attorneys — citing the Oklahoma case that President Barack Obama called “inhumane” — renewed arguments raised earlier in Texas that secrecy over the source of the pentobarbital drug to be used could mean that Campbell is subjected to unconstitutional pain and suffering.

“Frighteningly, Texas is pursuing the path of secrecy in the midst of these deeply troubling events, and even in the immediate wake of events in Oklahoma,” said Maurie Levin, Campbell’s lead attorney in a federal civil rights suit.

Attorneys for the state of Texas disputed Levin’s arguments, saying they were “speculative” and did not demonstrate a significant risk of pain. Texas was not using a new method of execution and did not employ the three-drug procedure used in Oklahoma, they said. Texas had carried out three executions with the new drug supply and courts already had ruled the process was acceptable, the state said.

The Texas procedures are “vastly different from the situation in Oklahoma in which an admittedly new protocol was used,” said Ellen Stewart-Klein, an assistant attorney general.

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