What do you believe is the appropriate sentence for a man who murders another man in front of his children, then kidnaps and rapes his ex-girlfriend, and then shoots at a cop? Probation? Kidding. Many believe that the ultimate sanction should be imposed for those series of abhorrent offenses. Well, that’s exactly what the judge did. Russell Bucklew is currently on Missouri’s death row and was scheduled to die last night. What saved him?
Justice Samuel Alito of the U.S. Supreme Court temporary delated the execution of Bucklew literally two hours before a lethal cocktail was to be injected into his veins. The Court is reviewing his case today. He can still be put to death by 12:01 Thursday as his death warrant is still in effect. If he exhausts all his appeals by then, he will be killed by the State of Missouri.
So what did his lawyers argue to successfully get the brief stay? They alleged that a rare illness that Bucklew possesses would make a lethal injection excruciating, and thus, a violation of the Constitution. Because the State couldn’t show that Bucklew’s allegation was incorrect, they put the execution on hold. The justices wrote, “Bucklew’s unrebutted medical evidence demonstrates the requisite sufficient likelihood of unnecessary pain and suffering beyond the constitutionally permissible amount inherent in all executions.” They further wrote, “The irreparable harm to Bucklew is great in comparison to the harm to the state from staying the execution.”
Allegedly, Bucklew suffers from a cavernous hemangioma, a medical condition which creates big masses in his neck and head. He argued that the tumors could prevent proper circulation of the drugs, which would prolong his death and cause him extreme pain. That extraordinary pain that he would allegedly suffer, his attorneys argue, would violate the constitution’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
Naturally, the mother of Bucklew’s murder victim was very upset by the last minute delay.
I’m shaking my head on this one. What’s uncontroverted is that his crime was atrocious and cruel. What’s also not in dispute is that a Missouri jury determined that prison was too good for him and that he had to die. What has halted that process is that the injection of lethal drugs may cause him some pain, more than permitted under the law? What? I’m sure the victim’s family is losing sleep over that, passionately crying, “Please don’t cause him any extra pain!” (That’s what’s called “sarcasm”) Let me just say this, I think its more “cruel and unusual” to all parties involved to delay this execution based on these grounds then to proceed as planned. I’m sure there are those who would make the argument that the death process should hurt a lot more than it does. Regardless of the ultimate decision by the higher court, I do hope they decide this one quickly and justly.