Blood-Filled Tumors Weren't Enough to Stop His Execution

Russell Bucklew executed after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson denies clemency request
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 1, 2019 10:00 AM CDT
Updated Oct 1, 2019 7:17 PM CDT

(Newser) – Missouri executed Russell Bucklew Tuesday, despite concerns that the 51-year-old inmate's rare medical condition could have resulted in what his attorneys feared would be a gruesome death. Gov. Mike Parson earlier Tuesday denied a clemency request, and the US Supreme Court in April gave the go-ahead for Bucklew to be executed, reports the AP. Parson worked in law enforcement for more than 20 years and is a staunch death penalty supporter. Bucklew suffered from cavernous hemangioma, a rare disease that caused blood-filled tumors in his head, neck, and throat. A permanent tracheostomy in his throat helped him breathe. His attorneys said in the clemency request that if one of the throat tumors bursts, Bucklew could suffer an excruciatingly painful death. But the AP reports there were "no outward signs of distress" as he was executed.

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"These unstable tumors are highly likely to hemorrhage during the stress of the execution, causing Russell to cough and choke on his own blood," the clemency request stated. Missouri uses a single dose of pentobarbital as its execution drug. It wasn't known if the Missouri Department of Corrections planned any extra precautions to address the risk that Bucklew might have suffered, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. Bucklew was within hours of execution in 2014 and again in 2018, only to get reprieves from the Supreme Court amid concerns about whether he might suffer. His execution at the state prison in Bonne Terre was Missouri's first since January 2017. (Read the story of Bucklew's crime here; it begins with his girlfriend, Stephanie Ray, leaving him on Valentine's Day in 1996.)

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