"Texas almost got away with killing an intellectually impaired man," is Scott Martelle's Los Angeles Times Opinion LA blog post.
In 2003, lawyers for a condemned murderer named Robert James Campbell asked the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for any information the state had on their client’s intellectual capacity. A department lawyer replied that “inmates sentenced to death receive no intellectual testing upon incarceration,” but that corrections officials had a single record from an unrelated 1990 conviction that put Campbell’s IQ at 84. Which was significant, because the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled the year before in Atkins vs. Virginia that people with IQs below 70 could not be executed.
It turns out someone in the corrections department lied. Corrections officials had tested Campbell when he arrived on death row in 1992 and measured his IQ at 71, within the margin of error to make the case that he was intellectually impaired and ineligible for the death penalty. The Harris County district attorney’s office in Houston, which had prosecuted Campbell, also possessed subpoenaed school records that pegged Campbell’s IQ at 68 when he was in third grade, and other evidence -- including the fact that Campbell failed nearly all of his classes -- of an intellectual handicap.
Additional news coverage includes:
"Appeals Court Grants Stay of Execution in Texas Based on Mental Disability Claim," by Manny Fernandez and John Schwartz at the New York Times.
A little more than two hours before he was scheduled to be put to death here, a convicted murderer was granted a stay of execution by a federal appeals court on Tuesday so the courts could review his claim that he is mentally disabled — a disability, his lawyers argued, that state agencies had long known and concealed.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans granted the request from lawyers for Robert James Campbell, 41, who had been set to be the first inmate put to death in America since a botched execution in Oklahoma last month drew attention to the methods, drugs and secrecy surrounding lethal injections.
Mr. Campbell’s lawyers said that information uncovered in state files in recent weeks showed that he was ineligible for execution because of a low I.Q. They said state officials withheld the results of two I.Q. tests given to Mr. Campbell — a 68 when he was a child and a 71 shortly after he arrived on death row at the age of 19. Testing done last month on behalf of the defense produced a score of 69.
"Federal court halts Texas execution as killer pursues appeals," contains AP reporting, via the Dallas Morning News.
“Campbell and his attorneys have not had a fair opportunity to develop Campbell’s claims of ineligibility for the death penalty,” the New Orleans-based court said. “In light of the evidence we have been shown, we believe that Campbell must be given such an opportunity.”
The Los Angeles Times reports, "Court halts Texas execution over question of intellectual disability," by Molly Hennessy-Fiske.
Multiple IQ tests that Robert Campbell, 41, took at various ages demonstrated "significantly sub-average intellectual functioning," the court ruled. The appellate judges also noted evidence that Campbell failed classes in school and struggled with everyday tasks such as making change, reading a gas gauge and telling time.
They found that prosecutors and, later, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice had concealed from Campbell's attorneys his IQ test results below 70, which is generally considered intellectually disabled by the courts. Those results would have bolstered the argument that he was not legally competent to be executed.
"It is regrettable that we are now reviewing evidence of intellectual disability at the eleventh hour," the court wrote, but it noted, "We cannot fault Campbell or his attorneys, past or present, for the delay."
"Execution of Texas inmate halted by appeals court," by Mark Berman and Karen Brooks Harper for the Washington Post.
"US appeals court halts Texas execution of Robert Campbell," by Tom Dart at the Guardian.
"Federal Court Stays Execution of Texas Killer Robert Campbell," by Tracy Connor for NBC News.
"U.S. appeals court grants stay hours before Texas execution," by Jon Herskovitz of Reuters.
National Journal posts, "Amid Secrecy Claims, Court Halts Texas Execution," by Dustin Volz.
Earlier coverage of Robert Campbell's stay of execution begins at the link.