The nine justices of the US supreme court must decide on Wednesday whether or not uphold a stay of execution for a death-row inmate in Missouri whose lawyers argue faces a prolonged and agonizing death as a result of a rare medical condition that could complicate the lethal injection process.
The fate of Russell Bucklew, 46, a convicted murderer and rapist, is in the hands of the highest judicial panel in the nation after a night of dramatic legal maneuvers that saw the execution postponed, then reinstated, then postponed again. With moments to go before the midnight deadline, supreme court justice Samuel Alito stayed the execution pending consideration by the full court.
The state has until midnight on Wednesday to carry out the execution, otherwise it must seek a new date.
The question for the inmate's lawyers is whether a majority of five votes can be mustered in the US supreme court to effect a stay. The nine justices are being asked to rule on whether Missouri’s death penalty protocol, that provides for a single dose of the barbiturate pentobarbital probably produced to order in a poorly regulated compounding pharmacy, can assure Bucklew of a reasonably humane death.