JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Tuesday, a 20-year legal battle over Russell Bucklew’s execution ended.
In June 1997, Bucklew was found guilty of first-degree murder and was sentenced to be executed. In 1998, the judgment was upheld and then later stayed. In 2000, the post-conviction relief was overruled and his judgment was upheld again. In 2001, Bucklew’s motions for rehearing were overruled.
Many of the appeals were fixated on Bucklew’s genetic defect that would make lethal injection “torture.” Bucklew has a rare congenital illness that creates “vascular tumors in his head and neck and causes hemorrhages.”
The execution will be by lethal injection.
According to a 1998 Supreme Court of Missouri hand down, Bucklew “physically attacked his ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Ray, and threatened to kill her. He also threatened to kill her presumed new boyfriend, Michael Sanders. Shortly afterward, he stole a vehicle, took pistols and handcuffs and duct tape with him, and surreptitiously followed Ray to Sanders’ home. Bucklew waited, then entered and shot and killed Sanders and fired at Sanders’ six-year-old son. He kidnapped and raped Ray. The Missouri highway patrol chased and caught Bucklew, who precipitated a gunfight that wounded Bucklew and a trooper. A jury convicted Bucklew of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and first-degree burglary and recommended the death sentence, which the trial court imposed. Bucklew appeals.”
In March 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States denied Bucklew’s petition for writ of certiorari and the Supreme Court of Missouri set his execution for May 21, 2014. The Supreme Court of the United States then issued a stay of execution “pending the resolution of Russell Bucklew’s appeal of the dismissal of his federal civil rights suit.” The suit was resolved and the stay expired.
On June 21, 2017, the state filed a motion to set the execution date and, on July 21, 2017, Russell Bucklew filed a response.
Bucklew’s sentence is not set to be executed during the 24-hour period beginning at 6:00 p.m. on March 20, 2018.
In 2015, Bucklew attorneys suggested gas chamber or firing squad as a preferred form of execution. The attorneys previously were asked by courts to give alternatives to lethal injection. The state does not have a working gas chamber.
State law does not allow execution by firing squad.
Missouri’s gas chamber has not been used for over 50 years, with the state using lethal injection to carry out all executions since 1989. The attorney’s said Missouri would have plenty of time to repair the gas chamber.
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.