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May 12, 2014

Despite execution problems elsewhere, Texas poised to carry out another death sentence on Tuesday

As highlighted by this new New York Times article, headlined "Facing Challenge to Execution, Texas Calls Its Process the Gold Standard," problems encountered by other states has not led official in Texas to question how it runs its machinery of death. Here are excerpts from the lengthy Times piece about modern Lone Star State capital punishment realities:

If Texas executes Robert James Campbell as planned on Tuesday, for raping and murdering a woman, it will be the nation’s first execution since Oklahoma’s bungled attempt at lethal injection two weeks ago left a convicted murderer writhing and moaning before he died.

Lawyers for Mr. Campbell are trying to use the Oklahoma debacle to stop the execution here.  But many in this state and in this East Texas town north of Houston, where hundreds have been executed in the nation’s busiest death chamber, like to say they do things right.

For two years now, Texas has used a single drug, the barbiturate pentobarbital, instead of the three-drug regimen used in neighboring Oklahoma.  Prison administrators from other states often travel here to learn how Texas performs lethal injections and to observe executions.  Texas officials have provided guidance and, on at least a few occasions, carried out executions for other states.

Even the protesters and TV cameras that used to accompany executions here have largely dissipated.  “It’s kind of business as usual,” said Tommy Oates, 62, a longtime resident who was eating lunch at McKenzie’s Barbeque last week, about one mile from the prison known as the Walls Unit.  “That sounds cold, I know. But they’re not in prison for singing too loud at church.”

More than any other place in the United States, Huntsville is the capital of capital punishment.  All of the 515 men and women Texas has executed since 1982 by lethal injection and all of the 361 inmates it electrocuted from 1924 to 1964 were killed here in the same prison in the same town, at the redbrick Walls Unit.  Over all, Texas accounts for nearly 40 percent of the nation’s executions....

Gov. Rick Perry is a staunch defender of the state’s record, saying that “in Texas for a substantially long period of time, our citizens have decided that if you kill our children, if you kill our police officers, for those very heinous crimes, that the appropriate punishment is the death penalty.”  On “Meet the Press” recently, he added, “I’m confident that the way that the executions are taken care of in the state of Texas are appropriate.”...

David R. Dow, a law professor at the University of Houston who has represented more than 100 death row inmates during their appeals, explained the state’s record of seeming success simply.  “When you do something a lot, you get good at it,” he said, adding archly, “I think Texas probably does it as well as Iran.”...

Some of those who work in the system are proud of their expertise.  Jim Willett, who was the warden at the Walls prison from 1998 to 2001, oversaw 89 executions.  Staff members who prepare prisoners for execution are trained and skilled, he said. The “tie-down team” that straps the prisoners onto the table, “can take that man back there and put those straps on perfectly and easily in 30 seconds.  This may sound odd to an outsider, but they take pride in what they do.” He added, “They’ve done it so often that it’s almost second nature to them.”...

Since 1976, Texas has carried out more executions than six other states combined — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma and Virginia — all of which have some of the busiest death chambers.

On Monday, an appeal by Mr. Campbell's lawyers to stop the execution reached the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans. The lawyers cited the execution in Oklahoma, where Clayton D. Lockett writhed and moaned on the table until prison officials halted the procedure.  Mr. Lockett died 43 minutes after the delivery of drugs into a vein in his groin began. Oklahoma has declared a six-month stay of the next execution.

The argument in the original complaint in the Campbell case, filed in federal court in Houston, tracks arguments in several current lawsuits challenging Texas’ execution process.  It focuses on efforts by Texas, Oklahoma and other states to restrict information about the source of the drugs.  Texas has declined to disclose such information as how its drug is tested for potency and purity, among other details of the process.  The lawyers for Mr. Campbell argue that “to permit this execution to proceed in light of the eye-opening events in Oklahoma should not be countenanced by a civilized society, nor tolerated by the constitutional principles that form the basis of our democracy.”

State officials say Texas is not like Oklahoma partly because it uses a single drug, the barbiturate pentobarbital, instead of the three-drug series employed north of the Red River.  This approach, along with other protections for prisoners in the process, was favored by a new report on the death penalty from The Constitution Project, a group that includes supporters and opponents of capital punishment....

Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general, has opposed the request to stop the execution, stating that “recent problems in another state following an entirely different execution procedure do nothing to change this fact.”  The state argued that pentobarbital has been used successfully in 33 executions in Texas, and that testing showed the batch of the drug to be used, which came from a compounding pharmacy, was potent and “free of contaminants.”...

Support for the death penalty in Texas runs higher than in the rest of the country; a May 2012 University of Texas-Texas Tribune online poll showed that 53 percent of Texas voters said they supported the death penalty for murder over life imprisonment without the chance for parole. A Quinnipiac University telephone poll conducted in May 2013 found that 48 percent of American voters favored the death penalty over a life term for people convicted of murder.

May 12, 2014 at 07:13 PM | Permalink

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Comments

If criminals do not want to face the death penalty they should move out of Texas.

Posted by: Liberty1st | May 12, 2014 9:24:26 PM

“I think Texas probably does it as well as Iran.”...--Prof. David Dow

Nice, you sorry sap. Though you wish there were innocent ones, and injustice, all that you can muster is a vacuous incongruity worthy only of an illustrious guttersnipe.

Posted by: Adamakis | May 13, 2014 9:27:41 AM

The "Iran" comment is a bit of snark, but also true enough -- do something regularly, including something that leaves something to be desired, and you get better at it. As far as one can.

"State officials say Texas is not like Oklahoma partly because it uses a single drug, the barbiturate pentobarbital, instead of the three-drug series employed north of the Red River. This approach, along with other protections for prisoners in the process, was favored by a new report on the death penalty from The Constitution Project, a group that includes supporters and opponents of capital punishment."

Yes. There is middle ground here though as Prof. Berman noted separately, those on both ends of a question can make getting to the middle harder. A standard problem, including in politics today.

Posted by: Joe | May 13, 2014 10:02:48 AM

If ...

Posted by: Joe | May 13, 2014 9:52:07 PM

well based on the new thread seems the criminals who run the criminal state of texas have been caught AGAIN. When are we going to line up all these fucking frauds and shoot their asses.

Posted by: rodsmith | May 14, 2014 1:44:46 PM

Rodsmith: If you shoot their asses you are not likely to kill them. It is kinda like the folks in Oklahoma who do not know how to kill a human with any dignity and stick I needle in his balls and inject poison. Oh, they termed the site of injection to be his groin but jeso, we are all adults here. We need to speak the truth when we discuss the killing of humans by other humans.

Posted by: Liberty1st | May 14, 2014 3:28:52 PM

actually Liberty your wrong there. IF you use the right size gun and ammo and shoot long ways you can kill someone by shooting them in the ass. LOL.

in the case of the above mentioned gov't stooges. bullet goes into big ass and exits via empty head.

Posted by: rodsmith | May 15, 2014 2:42:12 PM

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