Russell’s Life Spared
UPDATE – May 1, 2018: The U.S. Supreme Court will grant Russell’s case a review. As reported by The Hill, Russell has asked the Court to rule that inmates with rare and severe medical conditions challenging their execution are not required under the 8th Amendment to come up with an adequate alternative method of execution that reduces their risk of pain.
March 19, 2018: Just minutes from being executed, Russell was granted a temporary stay of execution in a 5-4 vote by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The decision comes based on Russell’s assertion that Missouri’s lethal injection protocol would cause bleeding and suffocation because of his medical condition, cavernous hemangioma. This would mean a gruesome, painful death that violates his Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
The stay is temporary pending the Court’s review of a lower court’s decision that Bucklew could not be sure that lethal injection via pentobarbital would cause choking or bleeding. If the Supreme Court does finally rule with the lower court, then Missouri could go forward and execute Russell.
Reports: US Supreme Court grants second stay of execution for Russell Bucklew from St. Louis Public Radio; Missouri inmate gets 2nd stay of execution from high court from St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Supreme Court halts execution of Missouri man from the Hill.
Call Governor Greitens at (573) 751-3222: tell him to stop the execution of Russell Bucklew for March 20. Sample script: “Hi, my name is (your name), and I live in (city). I am calling to ask Gov. Greitens to stop the execution of Russell Bucklew scheduled for March 20th.” If you can’t get through right away, please keep trying. You can also submit an email to him.
Rally at one of our vigils tomorrow: We’ll have watches throughout the day for Russell across Missouri in Kansas City, St. Louis and Bonne Terre (where the execution will take place), Columbia, Springfield, and Jefferson City.
The “botched and bloody” failed execution Alabama inflicted on Doyle in February (image to right) was torture – hours later, he had 10-12 puncture wounds, severe abdominal pain, bruises, and bleeding. Missouri seems to have similar plans for Russell tomorrow.
From the KC Star: Why Gov. Greitens should halt the Tuesday execution of a guilty man: “Even though Bucklew has spent years on death row, federal defense attorneys new to the case say that they are just now doing some of the most basic work that American Bar Association standards require in all death penalty cases… the law of the land is that executions are not to be carried out in cruel and unusual way.”
From the Archdiocese of St. Louis: Modern system of capital punishment denies real healing: “The death penalty stands as an affront to the God-given dignity of all life, and perpetuates a cycle of vengeance. Catholic teaching reminds us that when society has the ability to keep itself safe, punishment must align with the demands of human dignity. We pray for all those affected by acts of harm while recognizing our modern system of capital punishment denies the real healing they seek.”
Russell’s condition: Russell has a rare medical condition, cavernous hemangioma, in which he suffers from weakened and malformed blood vessels and tumors, which could rupture. Lethal injection drugs including anesthesia could fail to circulate properly and be rendered ineffective. Medical experts have warned he would bleed from every orifice while suffocating and dying slowly and painfully. His previous execution date in 2014 was stayed by the United States Supreme Court for these very reasons.
Missouri’s “High Risk” Stockpile: In addition to Russell’s unique medical circumstances, Missouri’s stockpile of lethal injection drugs come from a compounding pharmacy with a long history of violations and labeled “high risk” by the FDA. By turning to secret suppliers in compounding pharmacies through cash-only transactions, Missouri has made it virtually impossible to avoid the risk that contaminated, substandard, or even counterfeit drugs will be used in its executions and has ensured the absence of any regulation or accountability. These drugs could be tainted, expired, or even counterfeit, making executions the equivalent of a botched medical experiment.
Legal Lies: Prosecutors claimed Russell was a “psychopath” before the jury, leading them to believe he presented a “future danger” to other inmates and guards at Potosi and therefore a capital sentence was necessary to prevent future violence. Russell’s behavior during 20 years of incarceration has not been aggressive in any way. He has received no conduct violations for violence in the twenty plus years he has been incarcerated.
Opioids: Russell struggled with opiate addiction for years leading up to the crime. Ready access to prescription pain medicine altered his behavior.
Previous Stay: In 2014, the United States Supreme Court stayed Russell’s execution because of medical concerns – but the Missouri Supreme Court scheduled his execution again anyway.
Photo of Russell from the Kansas City Star – Jeremy Weis photography. Photo of Doyle Hamm from Bernard Harcourt.