Execution date set for man after 22-year long court battle
JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Supreme Court has set the execution date for a man found guilty of first-degree murder more than 22 years ago.
Russell Bucklew, 51, from Cape Girardeau, was originally found guilty of first-degree murder in 1997 in Boone County Circuit Court. On Friday, all of the judges of the Missouri Supreme Court heard the case and issued a unanimous decision - Bucklew is scheduled to be executed within 24 hours of 6:00 p.m. on October 1.
Bucklew has fought his conviction tirelessly. When he was first convicted, he appealed all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court, but his conviction was affirmed.
Next, Bucklew fought against the decision in both state and federal courts. His execution was postponed during the process.
In state court, he filed a motion for post-judgment relief and asked for a rehearing, but both of those requests were denied by lower courts and the Missouri Supreme Court.
The case lingered through the court system for 12 more years. In 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States initially declined to hear his federal claims.
This year, however, the Supreme Court eventually decided to hear his case. In April, it issued a 5-4 opinion, denying Bucklew's Eighth Amendment claim that death by lethal injection would violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
In his case, Bucklew claimed that because of a rare medical condition, lethal injection would be exceptionally painful for him. The Supreme Court did not agree.
In the majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote, "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."
In response, the Missouri Supreme Court filed a motion to set Bucklew's new execution date in May. Bucklew responded on June 3.