The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday halted the execution of a Missouri inmate with a rare medical condition who challenged the state’s refusal to disclose the source of its lethal injection drug.
The justices said a lower federal court needs to take another look at the case of Russell Bucklew. He had been scheduled to be put to death at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for the 1996 killing of a man during a violent crime spree, but a Supreme Court justice had blocked the execution late Tuesday while the full court considered the matter.
Minutes after the ruling Wednesday, people who were to have witnessed Bucklew’s execution on the state’s behalf were released.
Bucklew would have been the first inmate put to death since last month’s botched execution in Oklahoma.
Bucklew, 46, suffers cavernous hemangioma, which causes weakened and malformed blood vessels, as well as tumors in his nose and throat.
His attorneys say this and the secrecy surrounding the state’s lethal injection drug combine to make for an unacceptably high chance of something going wrong during his execution.
According to prosecutors, in 1996, Bucklew was angry at his girlfriend, Stephanie Pruitt, for leaving him. Pruitt moved with her two daughters into the Cape Girardeau home of Michael Sanders, who had two sons. Bucklew tracked Pruitt down at Sanders’ home and killed Sanders in front of Pruitt and the four children. He handcuffed and beat Pruitt, drove her elsewhere and raped her.
Later, after a state trooper spotted the car, Bucklew shot at the trooper but missed. Bucklew was grazed in the head and hospitalized. He later escaped from jail, hid in the home of Pruitt’s mother and beat her with a hammer. Bucklew was arrested a short time later.