Russell Bucklew's Challenge was the first major case of capital punishment claimed since Justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy. Last spring, Kennedy voted with the court's four liberals to stop the execution.
While the Supreme Court has largely confirmed death by lethal injection, lawyers from Bucklew argue that in its particular case, the disease, referred to as cavernous hemangioma, is progressive, causing an "unstable, blood-filled tumor in the head, neck and throat, "and they concluded that he could suffer from prolonged asphyxiation in a lethal injection.
Bucklew argued that the state should consider death as a deadly alternative gas.
Judge Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the opinion for the majority, emphasized that the Eighth Amendment did not require "the avoidance of any risk of pain" in carrying out executions. He said the court's precedent would be that a detainee can not successfully challenge an execution method unless the detainee identifies a "viable, easily implemented" alternative that would "significantly" reduce a significant risk of severe pain.
Bucklew had "provided no evidence" that replacing deadly gas "would significantly reduce his risk of pain," said Gorsuch.
Gorsuch also accused Bucklew of "delaying" the execution of Michael Sanders' murder in 1
"The people of Missouri, the surviving victims of Mr. Bucklew's crimes and others like them deserve better," wrote Gorsuch.
His opinion triggered a stinging contradiction among the liberals on the bench. Judge Stephen Breyer wrote to emphasize that Bucklew did not "categorically" attack Missouri's lethal injection protocol, but only because it applies to him because of his "unique illness."
Breyer said Bucklew had risked being "constitutionally inadmissible" while being executed by lethal injection, "the majority" said the state could still execute him.
State lawyers denied the findings of the medical expert, stressing that Bucklew spent a long time fighting his death sentence, arguing that Missouri's only drug protocol is "the most humane and effective method of execution" and that the state does not Has experience with deadly gas.