A murderer and rapist will be killed by lethal injection despite claiming blood-filled tumours in his neck could burst during the execution and cause him extreme pain.
The US Supreme Court ruled Russell Bucklew has no right to a painless death.
The 50-year-old requested the authorities carry out his death sentence by gassing him, arguing a rare medical condition will cause him severe pain if he received the fatal injection.
Bucklew is currently on death row in Missouri for rape, murder, and kidnapping in an attack against his ex-girlfriend, her new partner, Michael Sanders, who was fatally shot, and her six-year-old son.
In recent court filings, Bucklew argued that his congenital condition – cavernous hemangioma which causes blood-filled tumours in his throat, neck and face – might cause him excessive pain and suffocation if he is put to death by lethal injection.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, a conservative hand-picked by US President Donald Trump, explained the 5-4 majority opinion on the bench, adding Bucklew had ‘failed present any evidence’ suggesting his alternative method of execution ‘would significantly reduce his risk of pain’.
Today we bring this case to a close at last because we agree with the courts below that Mr Bucklew’s claim isn’t supported by either the law or the evidence.
The eighth amendment forbids ‘cruel and unusual’ methods of capital punishment but does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death.
As originally understood, the eighth amendment tolerated methods of execution, like hanging, that involved a significant risk of pain, while forbidding as cruel only those methods that intensified the death sentence by ‘superadding’ terror, pain or disgrace.
Right-leaning Gorsuch cited Bucklew’s choice to voice his concerns 15 days prior to the date of his scheduled execution as a ‘stalling tactic’, reports BBC News.
However, Justice Sonia Sotomayor countered in a separate opinion:
There are higher values than ensuring that executions run on time.
Other left-leaners on the court, including Justice Stephen Breyer, argued Bucklew’s condition should have allowed for him to be put to death by nitrogen gas, as it is a method allowed in three states.
The 5-4 ruling split along the court’s ideological lines, with the five justices ruling against Bucklew including Justice Brett Kavanaugh, disgraced in the court of public opinion after vehemently denying three accusations of sexual assault, whose vote was seen as pivotal to the outcome of the case.
An attorney for Bucklew didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment following the ruling.
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