IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Judge OKs Execution of Russell Bucklew, Missouri Inmate With Birth Defect

Russell Bucklew had argued his illness would make his lethal injection too cruel.
Bonne Terre
A guard stands outside a perimeter building at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center in in Bonne Terre, Mo., where executions are held.Jeff Roberson / AP file

A federal judge has refused to stop Wednesday's execution of a Missouri prisoner who argued a rare birth defect would make any lethal injection excruciating and unconstitutional.

Dismissing a civil rights lawsuit filed by death-row inmate Russell Bucklew, the court also tossed out his request to have the execution videotaped as evidence of his suffering.

Bucklew's lawyers said they would appeal.

"Mr. Bucklew has a tumor growing in his face and head which causes him to experience bleeding, intense pain, and difficulty breathing," attorney Cheryl Pilate said in a statement.

"This rare and congenital medical condition increases the significant likelihood that the lethal injection drugs will not circulate properly in Mr. Bucklew’s body and that he will hemorrhage and choke or suffocate to death due to his blocked airway."

She contends that Missouri's policy of keeping the source of execution drugs secret further raised the risk Bucklew's execution would be botched — like the April 29 lethal injection of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma.

U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips wrote that she could not issue a stay of execution for Bucklew — who shot and killed a friend of his ex-girlfriend and then kidnapped and raped her — because he didn't offer any suggestions for a safer way he could be put to death.

"His complaint does not include any reference to a feasible and more humane alternative method of execution," she wrote.

"Rather, the complaint appears to allege that there is currently no constitutional method of executing Bucklew."

— Tracy Connor

Convicted killer Russell BucklewMissouri Department of Corrections via AP