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Parson denies clemency for Bucklew; execution scheduled for evening

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson has denied clemency to Russell Bucklew, a man convicted of murder in 1997, The Missouri Times has learned. His execution is scheduled for a window beginning later Tuesday evening. 

Bucklew reportedly stalked, kidnapped, beat, and raped his former girlfriend in 1996. During the abduction, Bucklew fatally shot her new boyfriend and opened fire at his 6-year-old son, missing him. 

Bucklew, now 51, had appealed just how he would be sentenced to death. He said because of a rare medical condition, a lethal injection could cause a tumor in his throat to burst, thus causing extreme pain. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed his argument in a 5-4 ruling in April. 

His attorneys met with the Governor’s Office last week to plead his case for clemency. They have warned his medical condition will cause him to suffer an “excruciatingly painful death.” Carrying out the execution would “traumatize corrections personnel and witnesses alike,” his lawyers have said.

They also maintained he is now a “fundamentally different person” from when he committed the crimes. They said he is “incredibly remorseful for his conduct and the pain and suffering he caused,” in a petition for clemency to the governor. 

“Governor Parson has declined to grant clemency in this case,” a spokeswoman confirmed to The Missouri Times Tuesday morning. 

Bucklew will be the first execution during the Parson administration. 

“We are disappointed. We strongly feel that Rusty’s circumstances merited clemency. A death sentence being executed on the basis of a false diagnosis cheapens us all and does little to promote justice,” Laurence E. Komp, a federal public defender who represents Bucklew, told The Missouri Times. 

In an interview last week with The Missouri Times, Komp said, “We readily acknowledge that this is a horrible tragedy, and there is a just punishment. Our dispute is that the appropriate punishment in this case is not the death penalty.”

Bucklew will become the 89th person to be put to death in Missouri since the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the use of capital punishment in 1976. Aside from Bucklew, there are 22 other people in Missouri who are capital offenders, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections

Missouri allows the death penalty — by lethal injection or gas — which is overseen by the Department of Corrections. The death penalty can be imposed on individuals who are at least 18 years old and found to have deliberately committed first-degree murder, a class A felony. 

A look at Missouri’s death penalty laws, history