Missouri death row inmate gets last-minute reprieve due to rare illness

By Ray Downs  |  March 20, 2018 at 9:54 PM
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March 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court granted a reprieve to a Missouri death row inmate who was scheduled to die Tuesday, because attorneys said he has a rare illness that would have likely made the execution particularly gruesome.

Russell Bucklew, 49, was sentenced to death in 1996 after he raped and beat his ex-girlfriend with a hammer and killed her new boyfriend. He was scheduled to receive a lethal injection Tuesday, but his attorneys petitioned the court on grounds that his medical condition, cavernous hemangioma, would burst blood-filled tumors on his head and cause him to choke on his own blood during the execution.

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of Bucklew's appeal, with Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch the dissenting votes.

Bucklew's attorney, Cheryl Pilate, told The Kansas City Star the Supreme Court will hear arguments before his death warrant expires.

"We are thrilled and relieved and look forward to continuing to work with Rusty," Pilate said.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley disagrees that Bucklew's medical condition would cause a blood-filled scene because the inmate's tumors shrunk 10 percent between 2010 and 2016.

This is the second time Bucklew has received a last-minute reprieve. The Supreme Court granted him a stay in 2014" target="_blank">https://www.cbsnews.com/news/u-s-supreme-court-justice-halts-mo-execution-at-11th-hour/ because of his illness.

Bucklew's attorneys have previously argued that if he must be executed, it should be done by a method other than lethal injection.

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