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Supreme Court Considers ‘Gruesome’ Executions, Alternatives

Nov. 6, 2018, 4:28 PM

Justice Brett Kavanaugh may hold the tie-breaking vote in a Missouri death penalty case, and his questions to the state’s lawyer on the limits of cruel and unusual punishment might give the inmate here some hope.

Yet several justices, including Justice Sonia Sotomayor, also expressed concerns with what they saw as a factual record in the case that might lack enough information to render a clear decision. She quizzed Russell Bucklew’s lawyer on the current state of Bucklew’s health, and she was frustrated that the lawyer couldn’t give a clear answer.

Bucklew’s rare and degenerative health conditions led him to argue Missouri can’t execute him by lethal injection.

It would violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, he says, claiming the state’s injection process could cause him to choke and gag on his own blood. He’d rather die by lethal gas.

Bucklew was convicted of a slew of crimes in 1998 including rape and murder.

The case is Bucklew v. Precythe, U.S., 17-8151, argued 11/6/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jordan S. Rubin in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at