Judge Stays Execution of Death Row Inmate Convicted in Harris County

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Robert James Campbell, whose 1991 murder conviction in Harris County sent him to death row, won't die tonight (and won't be long on death row if his lawyers can help it). A U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judge issued a stay of execution so that Campbell's lawyers could work on an appeal.

The judge ruled Campbell was intellectually disabled, based on evaluations and school records obtained by lawyers. When he was nine years old, Campbell received a "deviation IQ" of 68 on the "Otis-Lennon Mental Ability Test," court documents showed. "And, when he was seven years old, he performed in the lowest range of the 'Metropolitan Readiness Test.'" Based on a 2002 high court decision, criminals who are mentally disabled can't be executed by the state.

The 5th Circuit decision also stated that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice hid evidence about the mental issues Campbell's lawyers had discovered.

"According to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, he is ineligible for the death penalty," Campbell's attorney, Robert C. Owen, said in a statement. "Given the state's own role in creating the regrettable circumstances that led to the 5th Circuit's decision today, the time is right for the State of Texas to let go of its efforts to execute Mr. Campbell, and resolve this case by reducing his sentence to life imprisonment. State officials should choose the path of resolution rather than pursuing months or years of further proceedings."

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