Convicted rapist and murderer Russell Bucklew, 46, initially
received a stay of execution in a 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel
of the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, but the full court
overturned that decision.
Hours later, however, the Supreme Court renewed the stay without
comment pending further order in a notice signed by Justice Samuel
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said the high court was
expected to consider Bucklew's case on Wednesday, adding that his
death warrant remained valid until midnight Wednesday local time.
Bucklew's lawyers argued that malformed blood vessels in his head
and neck could rupture under stress, causing the drugs administered
during execution to circulate improperly and cause him undue
suffering. The condition is called cavernous hemangioma.
Bucklew was convicted of the 1996 murder of Michael Sanders in
southeastern Missouri, and the kidnapping and rape of Stephanie Ray,
an ex-girlfriend who had been seeing Sanders.
Bucklew's execution, which had been slated for early Wednesday,
would have been the first since a botched execution in Oklahoma that
brought fresh scrutiny of the death penalty in the United States.
An Oklahoma inmate, Clayton Lockett, writhed in pain when a needle
became dislodged from his vein during an attempted lethal injection
on April 29. The execution was halted but Lockett died of a heart
U.S. District Court Judge Beth Phillips had on Monday denied the
stay and a request to have his execution videotaped, ruling there
was insufficient evidence to suggest Bucklew would suffer severe and
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But the three-judge appellate panel disagreed.
"Bucklew's unrebutted medical evidence demonstrates the requisite
sufficient likelihood of unnecessary pain and suffering beyond the
constitutionally permissible amount inherent in all executions," the
Koster then asked the full appeals court to reconsider the decision,
and it did, vacating the stay, only to be reversed by the Supreme
Missouri's corrections department said in court papers that
Bucklew's condition dates back many years and he did not have to
wait until days before his execution to raise the issue.
He has undergone surgery while under anesthesia, and there is no
reason to believe anesthesia would be ineffective prior to
administering the lethal drugs, the department said.
The department also has opposed the videotaping of the execution,
saying that allowing it "could lead us back to the days of
executions as public spectacles."
(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Brendan O'Brien in
Milwaukee; Editing by David Bailey, Eric Walsh, Bernard Orr, Ken
Wills and Lisa Shumaker)
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