BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Attorney General's office on Tuesday evening appealed a federal appeals court panel's ruling that temporarily halted the execution of a condemned killer, a ruling that cited concerns about the inmate's rare medical condition that could cause pain and suffering during lethal injection.
The appeal came soon after a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 ruling, halted the execution of Russell Bucklew. He is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for killing a southeast Missouri man in 1996.
"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 ruling read.
In a dissenting opinion, appeals court Judge James Loken said Bucklew's medical evidence "simply does not satisfy the Supreme Court's rigorous standards" for a stay of execution.
The office of Attorney General Chris Koster asked for a hearing before the full 8th Circuit, saying the panel's ruling conflicted with previous Supreme Court rulings.
The execution would be the first in the nation following a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma last month that left a condemned man writhing on a gurney before he died of a heart attack more than 40 minutes later.
Bucklew, 46, has a congenital condition known as cavernous hemangioma that causes weakened and malformed blood vessels, as well as tumors in his nose and throat. His attorneys say he could experience great suffering during the execution process, and Bucklew told The Associated Press by phone last week that he is scared of what might happen.
"The state does not have the right to inflict extreme, torturous pain during an execution," attorney Cheryl Pilate said before the appeals court's ruling. "We still hope that Mr. Bucklew's grave medical condition and compromised airway will persuade the governor or a court to step back from this extremely risky execution."
Attorneys for Bucklew said that if the courts failed to intercede, it was unlikely that Gov. Jay Nixon would grant clemency. Nixon, a Democrat and a proponent of the death penalty, said Monday that while he was considering Bucklew's clemency request, he hadn't seen a reason to halt it.
"This guy committed very, very heinous crimes, and while it's a difficult and challenging part of this job, we'll continue to move forward unless a court says otherwise," Nixon said in an interview with The Associated Press.
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