Missouri Sets Date to Execute Man With Rare Disorder

ST. LOUIS (CN) – Missouri has set an October execution date for a convicted murderer who claims his unique medical condition could cause intense pain and suffering during the lethal-injection process.

Russell Bucklew’s attorney says Bucklew faces a potentially “gruesome and painful” execution because of a rare medical condition that compromises his veins and causes multiple tumors in his head and throat. (Jeremy Weis Photography via AP)

Russell Bucklew is scheduled to die during a 24-hour period beginning on Oct. 1 at 6 p.m.

In a lawsuit Bucklew filed in 2014, he claimed he has a vascular tumor that will cause extreme pain and suffering during the execution in violation of his Eight Amendment rights. The lawsuit stated that the lethal injection “will almost inevitably lead to a bloody, prolonged and excruciating execution.”

The rare disorder, cavernous hemangioma, causes weak and malformed blood vessels and vascular tumors to grow in Bucklew’s head and throat. Because the tumor in his throat already blocks Bucklew’s airway, requiring constant intervention to keep him from suffocating, an expert quoted in the petition said his throat tumor will likely rupture during the execution, causing a hemorrhage that would end with Bucklew choking on his own blood.

The U.S. Supreme Court intervened hours before Bucklew’s scheduled execution in 2014, sending the matter back to the Eighth Circuit for further consideration. Since there was no time for the appeals court to rule before the schedule execution, it was effectively stayed.

Last year, the Supreme Court issued a stay in the second attempt to execute Bucklew, with his attorneys arguing that the gas chamber is legal in Missouri and would be a more suitable alternative. During that argument, his attorneys claimed his condition has only gotten worse.

That stay expired on April 1, when the country’s highest court ruled 5-4 in favor of lethal injection instead of the gas chamber.

Bucklew was convicted in 1997 of first-degree murder, kidnapping, first-degree burglary, rape and armed criminal action. He shot Michael Sanders to death and then kidnapped his ex-girlfriend and raped her before being wounded in a shootout with police.

He later escaped from prison and attacked his ex-girlfriend’s mother with a hammer. A prosecutor called Bucklew “a homicidal Energizer bunny” because of his persistence in going after his victims, the Southeast Missourian reported.

Bucklew would be the first inmate executed in Missouri since 2017.

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