What would have been the first execution since the botched lethal injection of an Oklahoma inmate last month has been called off with a last-minute stay issued by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Missouri inmate Rusty Bucklew suffers from a birth defect called cavernous hemangioma that causes unstable tumors in his head and neck, which his lawyers argue could cause a "prolonged and excruciating execution," CNN reports. Alito issued the stay less than two hours before the execution, but Missouri could still execute Bucklew before midnight tonight if the full Supreme Court rejects his appeal, reports the AP.
Lawyers for Bucklew—who shot a man dead in front of his two young sons in 1996 before kidnapping and raping his ex-girlfriend—argue that both his condition and the secrecy surrounding the state's lethal-injection drugs increase the risk of something going wrong. "I'm sick about it not working on me," Bucklew told the Guardian earlier this month. "I'm afraid that it's going to turn me into a vegetable, that I'd be brain dead. You saw what happened down in Oklahoma," he said. "I'm the next guy up—am I gonna get all screwed up here? Are they gonna screw it up?"