Facing Challenge to Execution, Texas Calls Its Process the Gold Standard

Rick Halperin, director of SMU's Embrey Human Rights Program, talks about the upcoming execution in Texas.


HUNTSVILLE, Tex. — 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 . . .  

Rick Halperin, the director of the Embrey Human Rights Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and the former president of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said he is tormented by the attitudes in Texas. “If you do raise the questions as to the morality of this,” he said, “you are immediately painted as if you are unsympathetic to the plight of the families who lost loved ones and sympathetic to violent felons.”

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