SCOTUS Rules Against Man Whose Blood Could Kill Him

Russell Bucklew wanted to be put to death using nitrogen gas
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2019 1:09 PM CDT
Updated Apr 1, 2019 2:19 PM CDT

(Newser) – The death penalty does not violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment—but the Supreme Court on Monday expressed that death-row inmates are not guaranteed a "painless death," ruling 5-4 along ideological lines in a case brought by Russell Bucklew. The 50-year-old is scheduled to be put to death in Missouri for a 1996 murder, and Reuters reports he has been fighting to change his method of execution due to a rare congenital condition. Bucklew suffered from cavernous hemangioma, which has caused blood-filled tumors to form from his neck up. He argued lethal injection could cause a tumor in his throat to rupture, which could leave him choking on his own blood, reports the AP. He sought to die via lethal gas instead. More:

  • His proposal was that he be fitted with a mask that would have him breathe pure nitrogen gas. Missouri had argued that such a method is untested, with no state having carried out an execution in that manner. (Though NPR notes Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent that three states have approved it as an alternative method of execution.)

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