October 1, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY, MO — The state of Missouri carried out the execution of Russell “Rusty” Bucklew at 6 pm CT this evening at the Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center. The execution took 23 minutes. Rusty was cut off mid-sentence without warning on the call with his lawyers leading up to the execution.

Bucklew suffered from cavernous hemangioma, a congenital, severe, progressive disease that caused unstable, blood-filled tumors to grow in his head, neck, and throat. Experts had testified for years leading up to this execution that it would result in torturous pain. His case ultimately went up to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled to allow Mr. Bucklew’s execution to proceed, arguing that the Eighth Amendment does not guarantee a painless death. This is the first time in this country that a person has been executed when consensus was clear that it could be torture.

Cassandra Stubbs, director of the Capital Punishment Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, issued this statement in response:

“We mourn the unnecessary, unlawful execution of Russell Bucklew tonight,” said Cassandra Stubbs, director of the Capital Punishment Project at the ACLU. “Missouri carried out an execution that risked torture and violated international law, despite Mr. Bucklew’s remorse and exemplary prison record. To think that killing this man — who was terminally ill and had been a model prisoner for 23 years — was worth the stain on our democracy and our humanity is a disgrace.”

Anthony Rothert, legal director and interim executive director of the ACLU of Missouri, issued this statement in response:

We are disappointed that in his first test as governor of Missouri, Governor Parson chose to go forward with this execution that was so clearly inhumane,” said Tony Rothert, legal director and interim executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. “We know the death penalty is racially biased, error-prone, arbitrary, and out of alignment with American values. It has no place in Missouri.”

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