The Supreme Court agreed Monday to take up the death penalty case of Russell Bucklew, a Missouri inmate who claims his execution would likely cause him "needless suffering" because he suffers from a rare disease.
Last March, a divided court granted a request to stay his execution. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissented from the order.
In court papers, lawyers for Bucklew says his disease, called cavernous hemangioma, is progressive and has caused "unstable, blood-filled tumors to grow in his head, neck and throat" and they argue that an expert concluded that if he were to undergo lethal injection he is "highly likely to experience ... the excruciating pain of prolonged suffocation resulting from the complete obstruction of his airway."
Lawyers for the state dispute the findings of the medical expert and emphasize that Bucklew engaged in lengthy delays in fighting his death sentence.
Bucklew was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping, burglary and forcible rape in 1998.