Supreme Court Grants Stay of Execution in Missouri

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The Supreme Court granted a stay of execution for Missouri inmate Russell Bucklew today, following up on the nick-of-time stay granted by Justice Alito last night.

Russell Bucklew (Missouri Department of Corrections)

Bucklew was scheduled to die at midnight, and would have been the first person to be executed in this country after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma last month. Alito granted a 24-hour stay of execution to give the Supreme Court time to rule. This also happened in January, but in that case, the Supreme Court lifted the stay the next day and Herbert Smulls was executed.

Bucklew's lawyers argued that his birth defect -- which causes vascular tumors in his head and throat -- could cause the execution drugs not to circulate properly, making Bucklew's death a long and painful process. 

The decision reads:

The application for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is treated as an application for stay pending appeal in the Eighth Circuit. The application is granted pending the disposition of petitioner’s appeal. We leave for further consideration in the lower courts whether an evidentiary hearing is necessary. 

Basically, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear Bucklew's appeal again. Along with Bucklew's medical condition, his lawyers have challenged the state's refusal to name the source of the pentobarbital it will use in the execution. Bucklew also requested that his execution be filmed in case anything went wrong, but the state refused.

Bucklew was sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of Michael Sanders, who he killed in front of his two young sons. He then abducted and raped Sanders' girlfriend, Stephanie Pruitt Ray. After he was caught (following a gunfight with the police), he escaped from jail and attacked the Ray's mother and her boyfriend with a hammer.


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.