The Missouri Catholic Conference is asking Gov. Mike Parson to grant clemency to Russell Bucklew, who is scheduled to be executed by the state on Oct. 1.
The four Missouri bishops in a statement asked the governor to reduce Bucklew’s sentence to life in prison, and noted that Bucklew’s medical situation “warrants special consideration.”
Bucklew has cavernous hemangioma, a medical condition which causes weakened and malformed blood vessels and tumors, which could rupture and bleed. Attorneys for Bucklew have said that lethal injection drugs could fail to circulate properly and be rendered ineffective and cause a slow and painful death. His previous execution date in 2014 was stayed by the United States Supreme Court.
“As Catholic bishops, we have consistently opposed the use of the death penalty,” the bishops wrote. “Evidence shows that the death penalty is often unfair and biased in its application. By ending the use of the death penalty, we can hopefully begin to break the cycle of violence. We can demonstrate that we need not take a life for another life, that we can envisage more humane and more hopeful and effective responses to the growth of violent crime.”
Bucklew was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1996 shooting death of Michael Sanders at his home in Cape Girardeau County. Bucklew’s former girlfriend, Stephanie Ray, took shelter with Sanders after the breakup of the relationship. He also was convicted of kidnapping and raping Ray and was sentenced to death in May 1997.
“Catholic teaching affirms that the dignity of the human person applies to both victims of crimes and offenders,” the bishops wrote. “It affirms our commitment to comfort and support victims and their families, while acknowledging the God-given dignity of every human life, even of those who do great harm ... (No) act, not even an execution, can bring back a loved one or heal the lingering wounds. The pain and loss caused by the death of a loved one cannot be wiped away by the state-sanctioned death of the perpetrator.”
Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will hold a silent vigil from 3-3:30 p.m. Oct. 1 on the steps of St. Francis Xavier (College) Church, Grand and Lindell boulevards in Midtown St. Louis, to draw attention to Bucklew’s pending execution. After the vigil, participants are invited to travel to the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre to continue the vigil outside the prison before the scheduled execution. Death penalty opponents are asking people to contact Gov. Parson’s office to ask for commutation of the sentence to life. Call (573) 751-3222.