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Dead Men Tell No Tales

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by Daveda Gruber:

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a man from Missouri can be executed. The highest court in the land decided that Russell Bucklew, a man who was convicted of a brutal rape and murder, can be executed by lethal injection.

In a ruling of 5 to 4, the SCOTUS decided that Bucklew is not guaranteed “painless death” even though he attempted to avoid the needle because of his rare medical condition.

Missouri now has the right to proceed with execution protocol in carrying out the sentence.

Bucklew was sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of Michael Sanders. Sanders was dating Bucklew’s ex-girlfriend when he was murdered.

Bucklew had assaulted the couple and stalked his ex-lover to find out the location of where she lived. Bucklew shot and killed Sanders and then fired his gun at his former girlfriend’s 6-year-old child.

He missed and kidnapped the woman and raped her several times. He was eventually arrested after a car chase and police shootout.

Justice Neil Gorsuch said, in summarizing his majority opinion, “Today we bring this case to a close at last because we agree with the courts below that Mr. Bucklew’s claim isn’t supported by either the law or the evidence.”

The court had previously ruled that inmates who challenged the method a state plans to use to execute them must have to show there’s an alternative that is likely to be less painful.

The Constitution does not guarantee a painless death. Missouri can execute Bucklew.

Bucklew had argued that death by lethal injection would be extremely painful because he had a blood-filled tumor in his throat. The tumor was caused by a rare medical condition that could most likely burst during the execution. That could cause him to choke on his own blood and cut off oxygen to his body for up to four minutes.

He called this cruel and unusual punishment that would violate the Constitution. Bucklew had stated that he wanted to die by inhaling pure nitrogen gas through a mask. This method has never been used in an execution.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Gorsuch are the five justices in the majority who rejected Bucklew’s argument.

The ruling said that the inmate failed to show that the alternative method “would significantly reduce his risk of pain.”

Gorsuch noted that Bucklew failed to show that the state would carry out the alternative execution.

Gorsuch wrote, “The Eighth Amendment does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death — something that, of course, isn’t guaranteed to many people, including most victims of capital crimes.”

Bucklew was granted a stay of execution by the Supreme Court hours before he was scheduled to die last year. Another stay of execution was granted in 2014 in the 11th hour.

Chris Nuelle is a spokesman for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. He said in a statement that Monday’s ruling put the state and Bucklew’s victims “one step closer to justice.”

Do you believe in the death penalty? How humane should it be? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter in the comments below.


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