A series of back-and-forth 11th-hour reversals has come to a temporary lull as, almost an hour before Russell Bucklew was scheduled to be executed in Missouri, Justice Samuel Alito has halted the execution.
BREAKING: U.S. Supreme Court justice halts planned execution of Missouri inmate.— The Associated Press (@AP) May 21, 2014
Bucklew’s impending execution has been contentious due to factors both directly and indirectly pertaining to his case in recent weeks. Bucklew contends that a rare illness—masses in his face that cause breathing issues—will make death by lethal injection painful, violating the Eighth Amendment which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. In addition, Missouri’s secrecy concerning where its execution drugs originated was cited.
Bucklew was convicted for shooting and killing a man in front of son, before also abducting and raping an ex-girlfriend.
The deliberation through numerous courts comes just weeks after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma. As Andrew Cohen explains at The Atlantic, doctors believe that “There is simply no way … that the Missouri officials responsible for Bucklew’s execution (none of whom will be doctors) will be prepared for what is likely to happen when Missouri’s drugs meet Bucklew’s body.”
US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito issues stay of execution for Russell Bucklew in Missouri.— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) May 21, 2014
Earlier this evening, the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals granted Bucklew a stay of execution. At around 10:30 p.m. Central time, a full appeals panel reversed that decision. And about half an hour after that, Justice Samuel Alito issued a stay of execution. The next step would be for the Supreme Court to rule on Bucklew’s claims.
Justice Alito also issued a last-minute stay for a Missouri execution in January, though that appeal, for prisoner Herbert Smulls, was not upheld and Smulls was executed the following day.