A federal appeals court issued a stay Tuesday in the execution of Texas prisoner Robert James Campbell just hours before he was to be put to death, deeming him too dumb to die.
Robert James Campbell, a convicted rapist and murderer, and his lawyers had been struggling to stop the execution on the grounds that Texas would not disclose the source of the lethal-injection drug to be used. The execution was set to be the first one since Oklahoma botched the lethal injection of a prisoner two weeks ago, so they thought they had a pretty good shot. But the courts didn’t really care… until the issue of mental retardation came up. Turns out they were barking up the wrong tree – they should have been pressing the mental retardation route the whole time!
With a little more than two hours before he was scheduled to be put to death, the U.S. Court of Appeals decided to give in and put things on hold to review Campbell’s claim that he is mentally disabled.
The court unanimously agreed that the prisoner is “intellectually disabled…and is, therefore, constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty.”
“We have been presented with evidence that Campbell, who will soon be executed unless we intervene, may not constitutionally be executed,” wrote Judge James L. Dennis for the unanimous three-judge panel.
In 2002, the Supreme Court banned the execution of those whom the law refers to as mentally retarded, and has said that an I.Q. of under “approximately 70” indicates retardation. Campbell scored a solid 69.
“I am happy. The Lord prevailed,” Campbell said from a cell just outside the death chamber in Huntsville.
Campbell was convicted of capital murder for the 1991 slaying of a Houston bank teller, who was abducted while putting gas into her car, robbed, raped and shot. Pretty high functioning for a “mildly retarded” person…