Time for execution transparency?

The effect of Oklahoma’s recent execution of an inmate that went terribly wrong is finding its way to Texas.

Robert Campbell is set to die in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice death chamber next week. The state will use the same drug that was used on Clayton Lockett in McAlester, Okla. The execution didn’t go as planned, as it took Lockett about 40 minutes to succumb from the lethal dose — and only after he writhed in considerable pain on the death chamber gurney.

The Texas Tribune is reporting that lawsuits are being filed against TDCJ alleging that the agency isn’t forthcoming enough about the drugs used to execute condemned prisoners in Texas.


The drug in question is pentobarbital. The concern among plaintiffs in the lawsuits is that Texas’s alleged lack of transparency in revealing its execution procedures could lead to “cruel and unusual punishment” in the act of executing Texas prisoners.

“The new thing to do is to be secret about it,” said Jonathan Ross, Campbell’s attorney in an interview with the Texas Tribune. “Obviously, they’re having difficulty finding reputable pharmacies to fulfill it.”

The Tribune reports: “The risk of torture and a clearly cruel-and-unusual outcome has been proved to be a very real threat when states aren’t required to facilitate executions with transparency and accountability and disclosure of the sort sought – and denied – in Oklahoma,” Ross argued in a request to stay Campbell’s May 13 execution.

Texas long has had a reputation as the state with the most efficient system of executing capital criminals. It leads the nation by a good bit in the number of executions carried out since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment passed constitutional muster.

The execution in Oklahoma has cast the entire process in some doubt, according to principals in the Texas lawsuit. They are seeking greater accountability from TDCJ in how it carries out this ultimate punishment.

Stay tuned to see how this one plays out. Capital punishment may be about to become the source of yet another intense debate in Texas.


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