US Supreme Court Halts Missouri Execution

(AP) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday halted the execution of a Missouri inmate with a rare medical condition who challenged the state’s refusal to disclose the source of its lethal injection drug.

The justices said a lower federal court needs to take another look at the case of Russell Bucklew, whose execution would have been the nation’s first since last month’s botched execution in Oklahoma. Bucklew had been scheduled to be put to death at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for the 1996 killing of a man during a violent crime spree, but Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito blocked the execution late Tuesday to give the full court time to consider the matter.

By law, Missouri has a 24-hour window to carry out a scheduled execution, and the ruling from the full Supreme Court Wednesday evening meant the state Supreme Court would have to set a new execution date if Missouri is to carry out the punishment.

Minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, people who were to have witnessed Bucklew’s execution on the state’s behalf were released. Eric Slusher, a spokesman for Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, confirmed that no further litigation was expected Wednesday.

“This is something the attorney general’s office is going to have to respond to and take up in court. As a result, we will stand down tonight,” Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman Mike O’Connell told reporters.

Bucklew, 46, suffers from a rare congenital condition – cavernous hemangioma – that causes weakened and malformed blood vessels, as well as tumors in his nose and throat. His attorneys say this and the secrecy surrounding the state’s lethal injection drug combine to make for an unacceptably high chance of something going wrong during his execution. He told The Associated Press last week that he was scared of what might happen during the process.

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