A hearing date of September 9 has been set for the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to hear arguments in the case of a convicted Missouri inmate whose execution was halted last month.
The U.S. Supreme Court wants the Appeals Court to hear the claims by attorneys for 46-year-old Russell E. Bucklew that he has a medical condition that could result in suffering if he undergoes a lethal injection, which would violate constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
Bucklew has a condition known as cavernous hemangioma that results in malformed blood vessels. His attorneys argue that could cause, among other things, a painful or prolonged lethal injection.
Attorney Cheryl Pilate says the potential for suffering is greater because of Missouri’s policy of secrecy regarding its execution procedures and drugs.
“A protocol in which virtually nothing is known about either the drug itself or its safety or where it came from or how certain things are going to be done during the execution,” says Pilate. “The secrecy is a factor that is common to all these executions that we’ve seen carried out in Missouri but because of Mr. Bucklew’s unique medical condition, we believe the risks to him were heightened.”
Pilate says it would be inappropriate to speculate about the outcome of her client’s case, but notes that if the state is prevented from giving him a lethal injection, it is unclear how Missouri might proceed. State law only allows for executions to be carried out by lethal injection or lethal gas.
“It’s my understanding the state is not prepared to proceed with lethal gas, so it would appear that absent some other kind of statutory authorization that there would not be other options,” says Pilate.
Bucklew was sentenced to death in 1997 for fatally shooting Michael Sanders in Cape Girardeau County. Bucklew believed Sanders to be his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. Bucklew then kidnapped and raped his ex-girlfriend before getting involved in a gunfight with authorities that left him and a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper wounded.
Missouri is scheduled to carry out early Wednesday morning the lethal injection execution of John Winfield for the murders of Arthea Sanders and Shawnee Murphy, friends of his ex-girlfriend.