Missouri To Execute Inmate Despite Rare Health Condition That Could Lead To Extreme Pain

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Missouri is set to execute a convicted killer whose lawyers claim has a rare health condition that could result in extreme pain and suffocation during the lethal injection.

The Wednesday execution of Russell Bucklew, 46, will be the first since the botched lethal injection of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett in April. Lockett died 43 minutes after the injection, following an apparent ruptured vein which prevented the lethal chemicals from circulating properly.

Bucklew was convicted of killing Michael Sanders and kidnapping and raping Sanders’ girlfriend - Bucklew's ex-girlfriend - Stephanie Ray in 1996.

His attorneys say Bucklew has weakened, malformed blood vessels in the head and neck that could rupture if under stress. If so, they believe the lethal injection drugs could circulate improperly, causing him undue suffering during his execution.

The stay of execution was denied Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Beth Phillips, who ruled there was insufficient evidence to suggest that the inmate would suffer severe or unnecessary pain.

Bucklew's attorneys appealed the ruling, but Gov. Jay Nixon, D-Mo., says the execution will happen Wednesday morning. Nixon says he has not decided on clemency yet, but has not seen any reason to halt the execution.

One of Bucklew's lawyers, Cheryl Pilate, asked the court to videotape the execution in order to preserve any evidence of prolonged death or undue suffering.

The Missouri Department of Corrections is against recording the lethal injection, saying that it "could lead us back to the days of executions as public spectacles."

The MDOC also says Bucklew’s condition is not new and that he did not have to wait until just days before the execution to raise the issue. He has received anesthesia to undergo surgery in the past and the department says there is no reason to believe anesthesia will not be effective before the lethal injection.

Sources: Reuters, KDSK