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Supreme Court: Death Row Inmate Not Entitled To Painless Death, Can Be Executed

Death row inmate Russell Bucklew's attempt to avoid lethal injection was shut down by the Supreme Court on Monday.

Washington, DC – A convicted murderer’s most recent bid to evade lethal injection was turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.

Death row inmate Russell Bucklew, 50, was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend’s new partner, Michael Sanders, in 1996, FOX News reported.

Prior to shooting Sanders, Bucklew stalked the couple in order to find out where she was staying.

He then murdered Sanders, attempted to murder Sanders’ 6-year-old son, and “pistol-whipped” his ex until he broke her jaw, according to the ruling.

Bucklew kidnapped the woman and proceeded to rape her several times at gunpoint. He was later apprehended after a pursuit and shootout with police.

While he was awaiting trial, Bucklew escaped from jail, and viciously beat his ex-girlfriend’s mother with a hammer.

Bucklew managed to score stays of execution for himself in 2014 and 2018, but his most recent attempt was not so successful.

He tried to convince the Supreme Court to spare him again, and noted that the blood-filled tumors in his neck, throat, and head could complicate his death, according to court documents.

Bucklew argued that the tumors would likely burst during an execution by lethal injection, which could cause him to be cut off of oxygen while choking on his own blood for as long as four minutes.

According to lower courts, the lethal drugs only presented a potential problem to Bucklew’s airway if they were to be administered while he was lying on his back – a situation that the State of Missouri said could be easily avoided, The Washington Times reported.

“Mr. Bucklew presented an as-applied Eighth Amendment challenge to the State’s lethal injection protocol, alleging that, regardless whether it would cause excruciating pain for all prisoners, it would cause him severe pain because of his particular medical condition,” the court noted.

Bucklew claimed that killing him by lethal injection would qualify as cruel and unusual punishment, and argued that he should instead be allowed to die by inhaling pure nitrogen gas, FOX News reported.

The Supreme Court ruled that, although the Eighth Amendment “forbids ‘cruel and unusual’ methods of capital punishment,” it “does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death.”

“To establish that a State’s chosen method cruelly ‘superadds’ pain to the death sentence, a prisoner must show a feasible and readily implemented alternative method that would significantly reduce a substantial risk of severe pain and that the State has refused to adopt without a legitimate penological reason,” the court said.

The alternative method Bucklew proposed has never been utilized in any state to execute an inmate, FOX News reported.

Bucklew also failed to prove that nitrogen gas “would significantly reduce his risk of pain,” and did not show that the State of Missouri would even utilize the alternative method to carry out his sentence.

“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,” the court added.

The justices ultimately voted against Bucklew 5-4.

“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,” Justice Neil Gorsuch said from the bench, according to CBS News.

Gorsuch noted that after Bucklew exhausted his appeals over 10 years ago, he began using lawsuits regarding the method of his execution to delay his death further, The Washington Times reported.

“The people of Missouri, the surviving victims of Mr. Bucklew’s crimes, and others like them deserve better,” Gorsuch said. “Courts should police carefully against attempts to use such challenges as tools to interpose unjustified delay.”

Holly Matkin - April Tue, 2019


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