A divided federal appeals court ruled late Tuesday that Missouri can proceed with its planned execution of a convicted killer, despite concerns that his medical condition could cause him to suffer during lethal injection.
The full 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late Tuesday lifted a stay of execution for Russell Bucklew that was granted hours earlier by a three-judge panel of that court. Attorneys for Bucklew appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bucklew, 46, was scheduled to be executed at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for killing a southeast Missouri man in 1996. It was the first scheduled execution in the nation following a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma last month that left a condemned man writhing on a gurney before he died of a heart attack more than 40 minutes later.
Bucklew has a congenital condition known as cavernous hemangioma which causes weakened and malformed blood vessels, as well as tumors in his nose and throat. His attorneys say he could experience great suffering during the execution process, and Bucklew told The Associated Press last week that he was scared of what might happen.
“The state does not have the right to inflict extreme, torturous pain during an execution,” Cheryl Pilate, an attorney for Bucklew, said before the first court ruling Tuesday.
According to prosecutors, Bucklew committed his crime after becoming 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 on March 21, 1996, and killed Sanders in front of Pruitt and the four children. He handcuffed and beat Pruitt, drove her to a secluded area and raped her.