ST. LOUIS — Attorneys for a Missouri man facing execution later this month are asking a federal court to spare his life, saying lethal injection of Russell Bucklew could result in a "torturous" death because of the secrecy surrounding Missouri's drug and the inmate's rare medical condition.
The court actions filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Missouri, include a civil rights complaint along with a request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.
"There can be no more irreparable injury than executing Mr. Bucklew in an unnecessarily painful, prolonged, and torturous way — the harm is irreversible," the injunction request states.
A spokeswoman for Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Bucklew is scheduled to die May 21 for killing a romantic rival as part of a violent crime spree in southeast Missouri in 1996.
Attorney Lindsay Runnels said Bucklew, 45, suffers from a medical condition known as cavernous hemangioma, which causes weakened and malformed blood vessels. He bleeds frequently and has impaired circulation, Runnels said.
"He cannot be executed under Missouri's lethal injection protocol, which does not take his medical condition into account, without inflicting cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment," Runnels said.
The court filings in Missouri come amid concerns raised by a botched execution last month in Oklahoma, when inmate Clayton Lockett's vein collapsed during the procedure, prompting prison officials to halt the execution. He died of a heart attack more than 40 minutes after the process began.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals agreed Thursday to a six-month stay of execution for another death row inmate while an investigation is conducted.
Missouri has shown no inclination to slow down on executions. The Missouri Supreme Court on Friday set a June 18 execution date for another inmate, John Winfield. The state has executed six men in the past six months.
Missouri and Oklahoma have different execution protocols. Oklahoma uses three drugs; Missouri uses a single drug, pentobarbital. But both obtain their drugs through a secretive process from unnamed suppliers. Critics say the secrecy prevents knowledge about the quality of the drugs, the reliability of their makers and whether they are adequately tested.