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Suit filed to halt Missouri execution

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Friday, May 9, 2014, at 1:54 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, May 10, 2014, at 12:44 a.m.

A man scheduled to be put to death in Missouri later this month filed suit Friday seeking to halt the execution.

Attorneys for Russell Bucklew, whose execution is scheduled for May 21, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, saying that a rare medical condition creates a high risk that Bucklew will suffer a “tortuous or excruciating” execution.

That would be a violation of Bucklew’s Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment, according to the suit filed by Kansas City attorney Cheryl Pilate.

According to the suit, Bucklew, 45, suffers from cavernous hemangioma. It is described in the suit as “a rare, dangerous and sometimes debilitating congenital condition that causes clumps of malformed blood vessels to grow in his head, neck and face, displacing healthy tissue.”

Doctors say that the condition creates a “significant risk” that the lethal injection drugs used by the state will not circulate properly, the suit said.

“This will likely prolong the execution and cause Mr. Bucklew to suffer excruciating pain,” according to the suit. “Additionally, the weak, malformed veins in Mr. Bucklew’s head could rupture, leading to bleeding, choking or severely compromising his airway.”

The suit said there could also be “adverse interactions” between the lethal injection drugs and numerous medications Bucklew takes for his condition.

Bucklew was sentenced to death for the 1996 killing of a man in southeast Missouri.

His execution is the first scheduled in Missouri since an execution attempt in Oklahoma late last month resulted in the condemned man writhing and gasping on the execution gurney. Officials halted the execution, but the man later died of a heart attack.

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

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