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Death Penalty Opponents Argue for Clemency in Bucklew Case

Attorneys for convicted murderer Rusty Bucklew are asking for clemency, claiming his tumors would burst during execution and amount to torture. (ACLU)
Attorneys for convicted murderer Rusty Bucklew are asking for clemency, claiming his tumors would burst during execution and amount to torture. (ACLU)
September 19, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Convicted murderer Rusty Bucklew's execution is scheduled for Oct. 1, but next week the American Civil Liberties Union will present a petition with 30,000 signatures to Gov. Mike Parson, asking that Bucklew's sentence be commuted to life in prison.

The ACLU also is meeting with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights next week in Washington to ask that group to weigh in.

Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU Human Rights Program, says the execution by lethal injection would inflict excessive pain and suffering because Bucklew has a rare disease that causes blood-filled tumors all over his body.

"The tumors that he has are likely to burst during execution,” Dakwar points out. “That would really cause a gruesome situation where he could choke and suffocate."

Bucklew's conviction states that he murdered his ex-girlfriend's new partner, fired at that man's six-year-old son – but missed – then raped the ex-girlfriend, and shot and wounded a police officer.

Later he escaped from jail and attacked the ex-girlfriend's mother with a hammer.

He appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in April that Missouri may proceed with the execution.

Dakwar laments the high court's ruling, noting that the U.S. has signed international treaties that ban torture.

"The majority of the court unfortunately concluded that the Eighth Amendment doesn't guarantee a painless death,” he states. “This conclusion is in violation of international human rights law."

The ACLU also argues that there were significant problems during the post-conviction litigation, maintaining the attorney borrowed $27,000 from Bucklew's elderly parents and failed to investigate them or present evidence of childhood abuse, lead poisoning and opioid abuse to the court.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MO