Missouri officials still plan to execute condemned prisoner Russell Bucklew (46) at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday by lethal objection using the drug pentobarbital; his lawyers have asked for a stay of the process on various grounds including their claim that Bucklew is suffering from serious health issues which would cause him to die in a torturous manner. Specifically, his lawyers have demonstrated that he has weakened and malformed blood vessels and tumors in his airways (known as “cavernous hemogioma”) which could rupture and cause choking, suffocation and impair the circulation of the lethal drug prison officials plan to use. In the event the execution is not stayed, the lawyers want to have the execution videotaped to preserve “vital evidence.” Such evidence may become relevant in the event the execution attempt is botched similar to what occurred in Oklahoma last month; that execution took over 43 minutes to complete and was fraught with substantial unnecessary pain many claim. His vein collapsed, and he suffered a fatal heart attack. The lawyers are basing their arguments in part on the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. At the heart of the controversy is the state’s refusal to disclose descriptive data pertaining to the “secret” lethal drug the state intends to use. The Guardian has sued Missouri officials in an attempt to force them to disclose the source and content of the lethal cocktail on First Amendment grounds. A federal judge refused to block the execution stating that Bucklew’s argument failed to include any reference to a feasible and more humane alternative method of execution. Lawyers plan to appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, Missouri Governor, Jay Nixon has refused to budge from his support of the execution. Some have raised the concern that officials in states with death penalties are hesitant to provide data about the manufacturers and content of the lethal drugs because it may create a political and economic backlash against the makers of the product based on ethical issues.

Why Bucklew was Sentenced to Death

Russell Bucklew lived with Stephanie Ray in a trailer in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri. The two broke up on February 14th (Valentine’s Day), 1996. Ray became romantically involved with Michael Sanders. At one point, Bucklew confronted the two and put a knife to Sander’s throat; he later cut Ray’s jaw and punched her. He threatened both of them, and on March 7th, he said he would kill Ray, Sanders and all the children if he ever caught them together again. Ray secretly moved in with Sanders. However, Bucklew tailed her and discovered where they were living. He armed himself with two pistols, duct tape, and handcuffs and confronted them. At first, Sanders produced a shotgun, but Bucklew quickly shot him twice killing him. He then fired at Ray’s son (missing him) and beat and drug Ray into his car where he eventually raped her. Later, he was apprehended by a police officer on the highway where the two exchanged gunfire and were both injured. Bucklew had a significant criminal past. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.


Throughout the country, many folks are saying “who cares”- he didn’t show the victims any mercy!. Why worry about any attendant pain he may suffer during the “legal” execution process. Such comments miss the point. This nation cannot long afford to stoop to the same cruelty the condemned man provided his victims with- we are better than that. If we are going to continue to execute people (and there are many reasons why we should not – race, level of intelligence, conviction of innocent people [as we continue to witness thanks to aggressive lawyers, the “Innocent Project” and DNA] for example, we owe it to ourselves, as decent citizens to be fair and humane about it. The Missouri execution should be halted.

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