A condemned killer was due for execution in Missouri on Tuesday as his lawyers sought an 11th-hour reprieve on grounds that a rare but worsening medical condition would cause him undue suffering during the planned lethal injection.
The death row inmate, Russell Bucklew, 49, was convicted of killing his former girlfriend’s new boyfriend and raping the ex-girlfriend more than two decades ago.
He was moments away form execution in May 2014 when the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay to allow Bucklew’s lawyers more time to pursue a lawsuit challenging his death sentence on the basis of his medical condition.
His attorney, Cheryl Pilate, told Reuters by telephone on Monday that she is simultaneously seeking from the U.S. Supreme Court another stay of execution as well as a ruling to allow the legal action to continue.
Bucklew suffers from a congenital ailment known as cavernous hemangioma, a malformation of blood vessels that could burst from the stress of lethal injection, leading to undue agony in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
“His physical condition has worsened” since 2014, Pilate said, adding that Bucklew’s doctors say his malady is untreatable and will eventually kill him.
Last month in Alabama, an execution was aborted for an inmate with severely compromised veins that led to a botched execution attempt, his lawyer claimed.
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.
Last fall, the Missouri Supreme Court set a new execution date for Tuesday. It is set for 6 p.m. local time.
Bucklew would be the 89th person executed in Missouri since capital punishment in the United States was reinstated in 1976, and the first in Missouri since January 2017. He would also be the seventh person to be put to death in the United States this year.