Lethal injection debate continues

Recent appeals have focused on the state's refusal to name the compounding pharmacy that supplies the pentobarbital.

One day after a botched execution in Oklahoma left a condemned man convulsing on the gurney, anti-death penalty advocates in mid-Missouri worry a similar situation could happen during Missouri's next scheduled execution.

Russell Bucklew is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. May 21 for killing a man in Cape Girardeau County in 1996.

"He has suffered since birth from a life-long rare condition [called cavernous hemangioma]... and basically his blood vessels can easily rupture," Rita Linhardt, a chairman of the board of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said.

"And so our major concern is that when the lethal injection drugs are administered they will not work the way they are supposed to work. And you could have a situation much like we had in Oklahoma last night where supposedly the veins of the inmate exploded."

Recent appeals to save the lives of condemned killers in Missouri focused on the state's refusal to name the compounding pharmacy that makes the pentobarbital for lethal injections.

"We don't know about the qualifications of the people preparing the drug, the purity of the drug, the protocols seem to be changing all the time...there's just a lot of secrecy and haste about which these executions are being carried out," Linhardt said.

But Kent Scheidegger, legal director of California-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, says naming the pharmacy could ultimately lead to injustice for the victims' loved ones.

"The people that sell the necessary drugs to the state get hate mail, and then don't want to sell anymore," Scheidegger said.

"If you read the cases, what you see every time it's a horrible crime, the punishment is well-deserved, and it's been way too long carrying out the judgement as it is. And to add further delays for further proceedings or delay it because the drugs aren't available is just a travesty of justice."

Governor Jay Nixon has no plans to push for changes in the state's execution protocol following the Oklahoma incident.