A man on Missouri's death row is asking the state to allow his execution scheduled for next week to be videotaped, on grounds that his rare medical condition could cause him to suffer excessive pain during his death.
Russell Bucklew's attorneys filed a motion Friday in a Missouri District Court requesting that a videographer be present during the execution in order to "preserve vital evidence of the events occurring during his execution."
The petition comes in the wake of Oklahoma's botched execution of Clayton Lockett, and runs parallel to challenges that death-penalty opponents are mounting in both states over the secrecy shrouding the production and acquisition of their lethal-injection drugs.
The 'death chamber' at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit in Huntsville, Texas, February 29, 2000. None
"If Missouri officials are confident enough to execute Russell Bucklew, they should be confident enough to videotape it," said Cheryl A. Pilate, one of Bucklew's attorneys, in a statement. "It is time to raise the curtain on lethal injections."
Bucklew, 45, is scheduled to be put to death on Wednesday for the 1996 murder of Michael Sanders. His lawyers have argued that a congenital condition known as "cavernous hemangioma," which causes vascular tumors in the head and neck, could prevent the lethal injection from working as intended.
If the request is granted, Bucklew's execution would be the first to be videotaped in U.S. history.
"It is clear that a tape of the execution is relevant to future litigation," the motion reads. "Among many other purposes, it may allow this court, or any other court, to better examine whether Missouri's lethal-injection procedures are 'sure or very likely to cause serious illness and needless suffering' in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution."
The petition represents just the latest in a long list of legal challenge to Missouri's secrecy laws, which since October of last year have allowed the state to refuse disclosure of the source of its execution drugs. Earlier this week, The Guardian, the Associated Press and three Missouri newspapers jointly sued the state's department of corrections in an attempt to force it to reveal where it has acquired the drugs used to kill death-row inmates.
Like Oklahoma and Texas, Missouri has turned to compounding pharmacies — where medicinal products are chemically crafted to fit an individual person's needs — to produce lethal cocktails. Those stores, however, are not subject to strict oversight by the Food and Drug Administration, and have been hesitant to be publicly associated with executions.
In response, several states, including Missouri, have passed secrecy laws allowing compounding pharmacies to remain anonymous, even to the attorneys representing inmates on death row.
"We don't know where the drugs are coming from," Pilate, the Missouri attorney, told National Journal last month. "They could be coming from a veterinarian, some dark corner of the Internet, or someone working in their basement."
Bucklew's execution will be the first carried out in the U.S. since Oklahoma's botched attempt on Clayton Lockett on April 29.