Whether or not the death penalty is a deterrent to crime has been a long running argument. Usually, there is not a lot of sympathy for death row inmates, or how they may have gotten themselves into that dubious club. But a case in Missouri is bringing a slightly different angle of this debate to the forefront.
Let’s begin where most death penalty stories in the media do not; with the victim. In 1996, Russell Bucklew stole a car, some handcuffs, and a few guns from his brother who was a police officer. He went to the home of his ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Pruitt, and the man she was now living with, Michael Sanders. Bucklew killed Sanders, then kidnapped Pruitt, took her to a remote area, raped her, then got into a shootout with a Missouri State Trooper. He was taken to jail, but escaped. He then went to the home of Pruitt’s mother and attacked her with a hammer. He was finally captured and taken to jail for good.
Russell Bucklew, who has had ample time to plan numerous appeals, may have stumbled on a defense completely unique to him. As luck would have it, Russell Bucklew has a rare disease. Cavernous Hemangioma is a congenital condition that causes weakened and malformed blood vessels, as well as tumors in the nose and throat. Bucklew’s attorneys argue that because the state of Missouri will not disclose the lethal drug combination used in executions, it could result in a higher than normal chance that something could go wrong during the actual injection. Bucklew recently told the Associated Press that he was “scared of what might happen during the process”, therefore violating his constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment. Many European drug makers opposed to capital punishment have cut off supplies to the U.S., forcing states like Missouri to find other sources. Most states will not disclose the names of any American drug companies supplying drugs for capital punishment for fear of retaliation by anti-death penalty groups.
Unfortunately, space and time prevent a spirited debate over the death penalty here. But for the past eighteen years, the taxpayers of the state of Missouri have fed, housed, and clothed this convicted killer. They have also ensured Russell Bucklew has unlimited access to a law library in order to do the research to file his appeals. Now he is afraid of an “ouchie”?
The usual arguments immediately come to mind. Was Bucklew overly concerned about the pain he was inflicting on his victims? Apparently not. Certainly Stephanie Pruitt was afraid that being dragged into a wooded area and raped was going to be a bit uncomfortable. No concern was demonstrated over those facts by Russell Bucklew.
The argument could be made that if death row convicts are in any way afraid of how the actual process is going to feel before they lose consciousness, that there could be some pain involved, that in itself is a bit of a dererrent.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Alito, blocked the execution late last Tuesday night, with the full court putting it on hold Wednesday until it could be fully considered.
With many states now considering the return of the electric chair for executions, Russell Bucklew might want to weigh his options.