Missourians protest death penalty after governor allows execution

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JEFFERSON CITY - Citizens protested outside of Gov. Mike Parson's office after his spokeswoman announced he wouldn't grant clemency to an inmate scheduled for execution Tuesday.

The state executed Russell Bucklew Tuesday night. It was Missouri's first execution in two-and-a-half years. Bucklew previously avoided his death sentence twice due to a medical condition.

Bucklew had cavernous hemangioma, which caused blood-filled tumors to develop in his head and throat. His attorneys argued lethal injection would've caused him to choke on his own blood, leading to a "gruesome spectacle" that would "violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment."

Although, this did not happen — ultimately, there were "no signs of external distress."

Bucklew was on death row for the 1996 murder of Michael Sanders. According to court documents, Bucklew believed Sanders to be the new partner of his ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Ray. Bucklew shot at Sanders who later bled to death from his wounds. Bucklew then kidnapped Ray and raped her. A highway patrol trooper saw his car and the two engaged in a shootout, where the trooper eventually arrested him.

In April, the Supreme Court ruled against Bucklew, allowing Missouri to continue with the execution.

Last week, protestors delivered nearly 70,000 letters to Parson's office asking him to stop the execution.

Laird Okie, co-chair for the Columbia chapter of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said protestors aren't fighting for Bucklew's innocence, but for a more "humane punishment."

"He committed a terrible crime, and he should be punished, and he has been punished, and he should continue to be punished," Okie said. "But he shouldn't be killed by the state, especially since he suffers from ... this disease."

Okie said the state should consider alternatives to the death penalty.

"There can be positive, constructive, things, like more emphasis on prevention of crime," he said. "Money that is being spent on death could be spent on life, more money spent on victims of crime, more money that could be targeted on drug [use] prevention. More could be spent on police instead of wasting money on these instruments of death, because it doesn't do any good. There's no evidence that it's a deterrent."

Citizen activist Barbara Ross attended Tuesday's protest.

"We don't think it's right," Ross said. "We haven't done this in a couple of years. We don't need to do it. Stop this. Don't be doing this in our name. We don't want this done. Not only is it immoral, but it's just so utterly unnecessary to do this."

(Editor's note: KOMU.com has updated this story to include the latest information).