A Texas execution was halted Tuesday by a federal appeals court that agreed to allow the defendants attorneys an opportunity to pursue the argument that their client is ineligible for the death penalty due to the premise that he is mentally impaired.
The stay of execution reportedly occurred just 2.5 hours before Campbell was scheduled to receive lethal injection.
The 41-year-old inmate, Robert James Campbell, was convicted of capital murder for the 1991 slaying of Houston bank teller Alexandra Rendon, who was abducted while putting gas into her car, robbed, raped and shot, The Associated Press reported
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The 20-year-old victim of the heinous crime was found buried in her wedding dress, having reportedly been in the process of planning her big day at the time of her murder.
The killer's attorneys were able to obtain a stay of execution by claiming that Campbell's 69 IQ did not meet the minimum threshold for mental competency accepted by most courts, which is a 70 IQ. In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled mentally impaired people cannot be executed, the AP noted.
"I am happy. The Lord prevailed," Campbell reportedly said from a cell just outside the death chamber in the Huntsville, Texas, prison. Following the execution delay, Campbell was returned to death row unit at a prison about 45 miles to the east of Huntsville.
According to Campbell’s defense attorney, Robert Owen, his client's "lifelong mental retardation was not proven until new evidence, long hidden by prosecutors and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, very recently came to light."
In their ruling, the New Orleans-based three-judge appeals panel wrote that "Campbell and his attorneys have not had a fair opportunity to develop Campbell's claims of ineligibility for the death penalty."
"In light of the evidence we have been shown, we believe that Campbell must be given such an opportunity," the panel of judges concluded.
Campbell's execution would have been the eighth this year for Texas. The Lone Star state is known for its active death row, which according to the AP kills more inmates than any other state.
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