Published on: Monday, April 30, 2018

This morning, the United States Supreme Court granted a Missouri death-row inmate’s petition for certiorari in Bucklew v. Precythe, No. 17-8151, to review the following questions presented:

Should a court evaluating an as-applied challenge to a state’s method of execution based on an inmate’s rare and severe medical condition assume that medi-cal personnel are competent to manage his condition and that the procedure will go as intended?

Must evidence comparing a state’s proposed method of execution with an alternative proposed by an in-mate be offered via a single witness, or should a court at summary judgment look to the record as a whole to determine whether a factfinder could conclude that the two methods significantly differ in the risks they pose to the inmate?

Does the Eighth Amendment require an inmate to prove an adequate alternative method of execution when raising an as-applied challenge to the state’s proposed method of execution based on his rare and severe medical condition?

In addition to the questions presented in the petition, the Court also directed the parties to brief and argue the following question:

Whether petitioner met his burden under Glossip v. Gross, 576 U. S. ___ (2015), to prove what procedures would be used to administer his proposed alternative method of execution, the severity and duration of pain likely to be produced, and how they compare to the State's method of execution.

According to Mr. Bucklew’s certiorari petition, he “suffers from an exceedingly rare medical condition—cavernous hemangioma—that causes in-operable, blood-filled tumors to grow in his throat and around his face, head, and neck.”  “Bucklew also has compromised peripheral veins in his hands and arms, which make his veins difficult to visualize. Accordingly, it would likely take multiple attempts to set an intravenous (IV) line, and setting an IV in Bucklew’s arms likely will not be possible at all.”

Before today, the Supreme Court had granted Mr. Bucklew's application for stay of execution on March 20, 2018, the day of his scheduled execution, while the Court considered his petition for certiorari.  All of the certiorari stage documents are available on the Supreme Court's website here.  The Eighth Circuit's panel decision with a lengthy dissent by Judge Colloton, is available here.  The Eigth Circuit's order denying en banc rehearing is here

The Training Division provides resources to federal capital trial and capital postconviction counsel through the Capital Defense Network.