KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) - A convicted killer's execution this month "will almost inevitably lead to a bloody, prolonged and excruciating execution because of substantial risks unique to "the condemned man, he claims in a federal lawsuit.
Russell Bucklew seeks an emergency injunction against the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Missouri's execution procedures are similar to Oklahoma's whose botched execution of a Clayton Lockett last month caused an international furor. It took Lockett 30 minutes to die, writhing, of a heart attack.
Bucklew was convicted in 1997 of first-degree murder, kidnapping, first-degree burglary, rape and armed criminal action. He shot Michael Sanders to death and then kidnapped his ex-girlfriend and raped her before being wounded in a shootout with police.
Later, Bucklew escaped from prison and attacked his ex-girlfriend's mother with a hammer. A prosecutor called Bucklew "a homicidal Energizer bunny" because of his persistence in going after his victims, the Southeast Missourian reported.
In his lawsuit, Bucklew claims he has a vascular tumor that will cause extreme pain and suffering, violating his Eighth Amendment rights, if he is executed by lethal injection on May 21.
"The size of Mr. Bucklew's tumor and the weakness of his distended vessels create a very substantial risk that he will suffer excruciating, even tortuous pain during an execution," the complaint states.
"Because the vascular tumor partially obstructs Mr. Bucklew's airway, he is at high risk of choking during an execution, particularly if distended vessels in his mouth or throat rupture and bleed. This will cause gasping and coughing that Mr. Bucklew will experience as suffocation.
"There is also a grave risk that, because of Mr. Bucklew's severe vascular malformations, the lethal drug will not circulate as intended, delaying the suppression of the central nervous system and prolonging the execution - which will likely cause excruciating pain to Mr. Bucklew. These risks are heightened by the use of a compounded drug, pentobarbital, in the absence of any disclosure about the drug's safety, purity and potency. In fact, the Department of Corrections will not even confirm whether the drug is subject to any laboratory testing whatsoever."
Bucklew claims the state has no protocol for executing a prisoner with a complex medical condition such as his, and that a qualified physician should be in the chamber for the sole purpose of reviving him if the execution is not successful.
Bucklew's 28-page lawsuit cites Oklahoma's botch execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29, after which the state called off the execution of a man who also was to die that day.
Bucklew's execution would be the sixth in as many months in Missouri, since the use of pentobarbital was approved. Previously, prisoners unsuccessfully challenged the state's execution protocol citing the secrecy around where the state was getting the pentobarbital. Bucklew is the first prisoner to argue that a health condition could complicate the execution.
None of the inmates reportedly had discomfort in previous five executions.
Bucklew is represented by Cheryl A. Pilate of Morgan Pilate.