The U.S. Supreme Court issued a new stay on Wednesday to halt the execution of a Missouri death row inmate who, according to his lawyers, has a rare health condition that could lead to undue suffering from a lethal injection.
Convicted rapist and murderer Russell Bucklew was scheduled to die early Wednesday morning before a series of court decisions resulted in a stay of execution.
- Paul Ray, Utah lawmaker, wants to bring back execution by firing squad
- Botched execution gets inmate Charles Warner a six-month delay
Although the court on Wednesday lifted an earlier stay that Justice Samuel Alito had granted on Tuesday night, it issued a new one that will remain in effect until Bucklew's new appeal is heard by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The court battle is the latest in the continuing controversy over execution by lethal injection in the United States.
A bungled execution in Oklahoma in which the condemned prisoner writhed and moaned as he received a lethal injection outraged death-penalty opponents, invited court challenges and attracted worldwide attention.
Oklahoma prison officials said Clayton Lockett's April 29 execution went awry when an intravenous line of deadly drugs became dislodged. He later died from an apparent heart attack.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has stayed an upcoming execution as prison officials investigate, but she too reaffirmed her support for capital punishment. President Barack Obama said the Oklahoma event highlighted problems with the death penalty and he's asking his attorney general for a review.
But the inmate's agony alone is highly unlikely to change minds about capital punishment in the most active U.S. death-penalty states, where lawmakers say there is little political will to move against lethal injections — and a single execution gone wrong won't change that.
Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian, a Republican lawmaker who pushed to have state Supreme Court justices impeached for briefly halting Lockett's execution, was unsparing. "I realize this may sound harsh," Christian said, "but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."