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 Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito had blocked the execution late Tuesday while the full court considered the matter.
By law, Missouri has a 24-hour window to carry out a scheduled execution. Minutes after the ruling, people who were to have witnessed Bucklew’s execution on the state’s behalf were released. .
“This is something the attorney general’s office is going to have to respond to and take up in court. As a result, we will stand down tonight,” Department of Corrections spokesman Mike O'Connell said.
Bucklew would have been the first inmate put to death since last month’s botched execution in Oklahoma.
Bucklew, 46, suffers from a rare congenital condition — cavernous hemangioma — that 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. He told The Associated Press last week that he was scared of what might happen during the process.
During Oklahoma’s April 29 execution, inmate Clayton Lockett’s vein collapsed, and he writhed on the gurney before eventually dying of a heart attack more than 40 minutes after the start of a procedure.