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Supreme Court Halts Execution Of Missouri Inmate

The Supreme Court on Wednesday put off the execution of Russell Bucklew, a Missouri inmate who has maintained that his rare congenital medical condition would make the lethal injection procedure excessively painful.

Bucklew had been scheduled to be put to death at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for a 1996 murder, but Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito stayed the execution late Tuesday, hours before it was to take place. He would have been the first person to be put to death since a botched execution in Oklahoma last month.

On Wednesday, the justices lifted Alito's stay, but issued another one, saying that a lower federal court needs to re-examine the case.

NBC News says:

"Bucklew — who murdered a man in front of his kids, kidnapped and raped his ex-girlfriend, and shot at a cop — contends a rare illness would make a lethal injection excruciating, in violation of the Constitution.

"Bucklew suffers from a medical condition called cavernous hemangioma — which creates large masses in his head and neck.

"He argued that the tumors could prevent the drug from circulating properly, prolonging his death and causing excruciating pain in violation of the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment."

Update at 8:50 p.m. ET:

Cheryl Pilate, an attorney for Bucklew, said in a statement: "What this means is that the appeals court will hear Mr. Bucklew's claims under the Eighth Amendment that he faced a great likelihood of a prolonged and tortuous execution because of the unique and severe medical condition that causes vascular tumors to grow in his head and throat."

"Today's stay of execution will give the lower federal courts time to consider Mr. Bucklew's claim that his execution would violate his rights under the Eighth Amendment to be free from cruel and unusual punishment," the statement said.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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