FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Method of Missouri’s Madness

Missouri is back. It encounters the death penalty repeatedly,  and its encounters serve as reminders of what a great country we live in.  We are willing to endlessly discuss and litigate how best to implement the death penalty.  One of our greatest attributes is that in proper circumstances (and before an execution takes place), the person with the greatest interest in the execution procedure is permitted to explain to a court why the method selected by the executioner is less desirable than the method the participant proposes.  The case of Bucklew v. Precythe is a case in point.  Mr. Bucklew is the plaintiff in that case.

Mr. Buklew engaged in some heinous acts, and following his arrest, was convicted of murder, kidnapping, and rape. His trial and conviction and appeals were in Missouri, and Missouri is one of the states that continues to use the death penalty as a form of punishment.  For obvious reasons,  Mr. Bucklew had a vested interest in understanding how the death penalty and he were going to be executed.  His interest was particularly keen, because he has a unique medical condition that he and his doctors believe would result in his suffering cruel and unusual pain and suffering if he were to be executed using Missouri’s lethal injection protocol.  If his claim that the procedure would subject him to cruel and unusual punishment because of his medical condition is in fact true, his execution would violate the pertinent provisions of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Having lost all appeals at the state level, Mr. Bucklew went to the Federal Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit.

In considering Mr. Bucklew’s appeal, that court engaged in an extremely careful analysis of what Mr. Bucklew must demonstrate in order to compel the state to execute him in the manner he has selected, rather than the method selected by the state. To succeed in his efforts, the Court said,  Mr. Bucklew must: “establish that the method [proposed by the state] presents a risk that is sure or very likely to cause serious illness and needless suffering, and give rise to sufficiently imminent dangers.”  (The Court does not discuss what kind of “serious illness” can befall someone who is being executed,  since it would seem to those unfamiliar with the process, that if one is dead within a few minutes following the beginning of the procedure, “serious illness” would not be a real problem.  It is also unclear what is meant by “imminent dangers” as used in the sentence just quoted.) The Court goes on to say, quoting from an earlier case, that in addition to satisfying those criteria, the prospective participant in the execution must also show that the proposed consequences of the execution procedure are “severe in relation to the pain and suffering that is accepted as inherent in any method of execution.” 

Further, and again quoting from an earlier case, the Court says the challenger must: “identify an alternative that is feasible, readily implemented, and in fact significantly reduces a substantial risk of severe pain.” That seems particularly compassionate, since it demonstrates that an execution may become a collaborative effort between the person being executed, and the executioner, if the person being executed proposes a method permitted under the applicable state law.

In addition to lethal injection, Missouri permits the imposition of death on someone who has received a death sentence, by use of nitrogen gas.   Mr. Bucklew asserted that in his particular case, with his medical condition, the executioner should kill him with nitrogen gas rather than lethal injection. (To avoid any confusion, it should be noted that the nitrogen gas (N) used in executions, differs from N20 known as “laughing gas.” A  person exposed to N in the execution chamber would die from asphyxiation rather than laughing.  However,  some studies suggest death from nitrogen may, in fact, be mildly euphoric.)

Mr. Bucklew’s case demonstrates that as in any collaborative effort, there are limits.  Missouri resisted Mr. Bucklew’s efforts to persuade the Court of Appeals that he should be executed by nitrogen gas, and the Court of Appeals agreed with the state.  In affirming the ruling of the trial court that lethal injection was appropriate for Mr. Bucklew, the Court said: “the [trial] court held that Bucklew failed to provide adequate evidence that his alternative method of execution-lethal nitrogen gas- was a ‘feasible, readily implemented’ alternative that would ‘in fact significantly reduce a substantial risk of severe pain’ as compared to lethal injection.” It said Bucklew “failed to establish that lethal injection, as applied to him, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.”

On April 30, 2018, the United States Supreme Court announced that it would consider Mr. Bucklew’s claims in its upcoming term.  The country will join Mr. Bucklew in eagerly awaiting the decision that will inform him (and us), of what method Missouri may use in executing him.

More articles by:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
Kerron Ó Luain
What the “White Irish Slaves” Meme Tells Us About Identity Politics
Andy Piascik
Grocery Store Workers Take on Billion Dollar Multinational
Seiji Yamada – Gregory G. Maskarinec
Health as a Human Right: No Migrants Need Apply
Howard Lisnoff
Loose Bullets and Loose Cannons
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
Dreaming in Miami
Graham Peebles
Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World of Fashion
Robert Dodge
Earth Day: Our Planet in Peril
Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
Jessicah Pierre
A Revolutionary Idea to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
George Burchett
Revolutionary Journalism
Dan Bacher
U.S. Senate Confirms Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
Nicky Reid
The Strange Success of Russiagate
Chris Gilbert
Defending Venezuela: Two Approaches
Todd Larsen
The Planetary Cost of Amazon’s Convenience
Kelly Martin
How the White House is Spinning Earth Day
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba and Venezuela: Killing Two Birds With a Stone
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge, Solomon Islands
David Kattenburg
Trudeau’s Long Winter
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail