This evening Missouri plans to execute a man named Russell Bucklew. We need to be honest off the top. Bucklew is guilty. He committed heinous crimes for which there is no excuse. Twenty-two years ago, when he found out his ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Pruitt Ray, had a new boyfriend named Michael Sanders, he threatened to kill them both. Stephanie left her house and went to hide at Michael’s. Bucklew invaded the home, shot, and killed Michael in front of his children. In fact, he shot at – and thankfully missed – Sanders’ six year old son.
He then kidnapped Stephanie, held her for several hours and raped her. When the state troopers caught up to him he got into a shootout with them, wounding one of them. Bucklew is the kind of guy death penalty statutes were written for. It would be very easy to say, “He deserves to die.” But I won’t.
So Why Shouldn’t We Execute Him?
The fact remains that the death penalty has no place in the United States. The Catholic Church teaches that the death penalty can only be used in parts of the world where there is no other means to protect society from the perpetrator. That is not the case here. We have prisons that are perfectly capable to hold men like Bucklew and make sure they can never harm anyone else.
Taking his life would only mean that our state, the government whose job it is to protect society from violence, is perpetuating the cycle of violence. In fact, there are a multitude of reasons why the death penalty is bad policy. Those reasons don’t change when we come across a case like this.
There are other issues with the execution as well. Bucklew has a medical condition that could cause him to hemorrhage during the execution leading to a gruesome and cruel death. There has also been questions as to if he has been afforded due process. But at the heart of this case is two victims who were violated, and we all want the guilty man to pay for it.
The Death Penalty is Wrong…Every time.
As hard as it is to think of Bucklew’s victims and the pain he perpetrated on them and their families, killing him will not make that pain go away. Killing him will not bring them back, or even give any sense of closure. Marilyn Armour, who has studied the death penalty and its effects on victims’ families, said in an article by PBS that victims’ families “tell you over and over again that there’s no such thing as closure.”
Put simply, violence cannot heal. Violence cannot stop violence. Violence is never the answer, even when we want it to be. Unless there is intervention by Gov. Greitens or the U.S. Supreme Court our government will kill a man today. A man who is guilty, but is still a person made in God’s image and who has inherent value.
We encourage you to contact the Governor at (573) 751-3222 and ask him to stay the execution and commute Russell Bucklew’s sentence to life without parole.
UPDATE: On March 19th, within an hour of the scheduled execution time, the US Supreme Court issued a stay of execution. There is no permanent declaration, just that execution could not go forward as of now. New info will be posted when available.