Governor Denies Clemency for Death-Row Inmate With Tumors in Head and Neck

October 1, 2019 Updated: October 1, 2019

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson denied a clemency request for death row inmate Russell Bucklew after his lawyers made a clemency request.

Bucklew, 51, suffers from a rare disease that includes blood-filled tumors in his head, neck, and throat. His lawyers said that his execution, scheduled for the night of Oct. 1, would be gruesome.

Parson’s decision was confirmed by Kelli Jones, his spokeswoman, and lawyers for Bucklew, reported The Associated Press.

Bucklew “is terminally ill, and the State accomplishes nothing by executing him,” his lawyers said in a statement. “In fact, executing him only causes further harm, and diminishes all of us as a society.”

Death row inmate Russell Bucklew is shown in this Missouri Department of Corrections photo taken on Feb. 9, 2014. (Reuters/Missouri Department of Corrections/Handout via Reuters/File Photo)

The death row inmate’s execution via lethal injection is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday.

He was convicted and sentenced for the 1996 killing of a man during a crime spree that includes him kidnapping and sexually assaulting a former girlfriend. He also tried to shoot her son and tried to attack several other people with a hammer after escaping from jail.

But his lawyers and advocates have said that he suffers from cavernous hemangioma, which causes blood-filed tumors in his head, neck, and throat. He had to get a tracheostomy operation to help him breathe, Fox News reported.

Sodium thiopental was once used in correctional facilities across the country, such as this room at San Quentin State Prison. The sedative was previously part of many states’ lethal injection protocol, but a federal judge recently ruled that the FDA can no longer accept imports of the drug. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

His lawyers said that if one of his tumors burst open during the execution, it would be quite painful, Fox reported.

“These unstable tumors are highly likely to hemorrhage during the stress of the execution, causing Russell to cough and choke on his own blood,” the clemency request stated.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April that Missouri can execute him despite the medical condition.

At the time, Justice Neil Gorsuch said the Eighth Amendment “does not demand the avoidance of all risk of pain” in conducting executions.

Gorsuch also noted that Bucklew had failed to “present any evidence” that lethal gas would “significantly reduce his risk of pain,” Fox59 reported.

Parson’s office told the Kansas City Star that the governor reviews all death penalty cases, and he “takes seriously both his duty and responsibility to see that lawfully entered capital sentences are carried out in accordance with state law.”

“Governor Parson has consistently supported capital punishment when merited by the circumstances and all other legal remedies have been exhausted and when due process has been satisfied,” the office said.