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Update on Missouri Execution

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As noted in yesterday's and today's News Scans, the execution of Missouri murderer Russell Bucklew has been on-again, off-again yesterday and today.  Missouri apparently sets its executions "old school" with a particular calendar day allowed, in this case today, May 21.  So, the originally planned time was 12:01 a.m., the first minute it was officially May 21.  The last available time is midnight tonight minus the time it takes to perform the execution.

Jim Salter and Jim Suhr report for AP:

BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court weighed arguments Wednesday over whether a Missouri inmate's rare vascular condition would cause him great suffering during what would be the nation's first execution since last month's botched case in Oklahoma.

Russell Bucklew had been scheduled to be put to death at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for the 1996 killing of a man during a violent crime spree, but Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito blocked the execution late Tuesday and the full court was considering the matter.

As the clock ticked Wednesday - by law, Missouri has a 24-hour window to carry out a scheduled execution - attorneys for Bucklew and the state parried in court filings about his medical circumstances.

Bucklew, 46, suffers from a rare congenital condition - cavernous hemangioma - that causes weakened and malformed blood vessels, as well as tumors in his nose and throat. His attorneys say this and the secrecy surrounding the state's lethal injection drug combine to make for an unacceptably high chance of something going wrong during his execution. He told The Associated Press last week that he is scared of what might happen during the process.
As often happens in capital cases, Bucklew has two petitions in the Supreme Court. Bucklew v. Missouri, No. 13-10165, seeks review of the decision of the Missouri Supreme Court and is accompanied by Application 13A1146 asking for a stay of execution.  Bucklew v. Lombardi, No. 13-10171, seeks review of the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, accompanied by Application 13A1153.

Last night Justice Alito granted a stay in 13A1146, pending further order of the Court.

Given the unusual medical issue in this case, it is unlikely to set any broadly applicable precedent.

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The federal courts can't get their act together to resolve a last-minute claim, and it's the state and the victims' families that pay the price.

The Supreme Court apparently couldn't be bothered to explain the reasons for the stay. Contemptible.

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