The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the execution of a Missouri death-row inmate who has a birth defect that affects his blood vessels just hours before he was scheduled to die.
Justice Samuel Alito delayed the execution with just two hours to spare so the entire high court can weigh in on the appeal of Russell Bucklew, who would be the first person put to death after a botched execution in Oklahoma, where an inmate's vein collapsed during the administration of the lethal-injection chemicals.
UPDATE - The Supreme Court ruled that Bucklew's case should return to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis for reevaluation. He was not executed Wednesday, and it's not clear when or if his execution will be rescheduled. End of update.
If the Supreme Court rules that Missouri can execute Bucklew -- who murdered a romantic rival in front of his children, kidnapped and raped his ex-girlfriend and shot a state trooper -- the state will have until midnight Wednesday.
The Supreme Court's delay comes after a long night of legal maneuvers meant to spare Bucklew from being executed according to Missouri's highly secretive process, which is so covert that even the Food and Drug Administration can't regulate the lethal drugs used in the execution.
A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals suspended the execution earlier Tuesday but was swiftly overturned by the full court, according to NBC News.
"Bucklew's unrebutted medical evidence demonstrates the requisite sufficient likelihood of unnecessary pain and suffering beyond the constitutionally permissible amount inherent in all executions," the justices wrote in their decision. "The irreparable harm to Bucklew is great in comparison to the harm to the state from staying the execution."
Soon after the judge's decision was overturned, Alito -- who covers emergency court matters for Missouri -- filed his own stay of execution.
Bucklew tells the Associated Press that because his birth defect, cavernous hemangioma, causes weakened and malformed blood vessels as well as masses in the head and neck, death by lethal injection could be excruciatingly painful.
Governor Jay Nixon denied Bucklew clemency, releasing this statement Tuesday:
Russell Bucklew came to the home of Michael Sanders armed and with the intent to murder him. After storming into the home and fatally shooting Mr. Sanders, Bucklew fired a shot at Sanders' six-year-old son, but missed. Bucklew then continued on a rampage of violence, including the armed kidnapping and rape of his former girlfriend and a shootout with the Missouri State Highway Patrol that left a trooper wounded. The jury in this case properly found that these heinous crimes warranted the death penalty, and my denial of clemency upholds the jury's decision.
Daily RFT will update this story with the Supreme Court's decision.