Missouri to execute first prisoner this year, despite what could be a painful execution.

Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Jealous rage – Kidnapping – Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 21, 1996
Date of arrest: Next day (wounded by police)
Date of birth: May 16, 1968
Victim profile: Michael Sanders
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Cape Girardeau County, Missouri, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on May 15, 1997

The fear of a painful execution.

Bucklew suffers from cavernous hemangioma, which causes blood-filled tumors in his head, neck and throat. Twice before, in 2014 and 2018, he’s been within hours of execution, only to get last-minute reprieves from the U.S. Supreme Court amid concerns about how his body would react to Missouri’s execution drug, a single dose of pentobarbital.

Shortly after the 2018 reprieve, Bucklew contracted meningitis and had to be rushed to a St. Louis hospital, said Jeremy Weis, a Bucklew attorney. Doctors inserted a permanent tracheostomy tube.

Weis said the tube is narrow and the tumors bleed easily, especially when Bucklew is stressed. If blood fills the tube during the execution, Weis said, Bucklew won’t be able to breathe and could choke to death.

“It really raises the risk of what could be a fairly grotesque execution process,” Weis said.

His Crime.

Stephanie Ray who lived with Bucklew decided to break up with him on Valentine’s Day, 1996.

On March 6, Bucklew returned to the trailer he had shared with Ray, found Michael Sanders there, concluded that Sanders and Ray were romantically involved, put a knife to Sanders’s throat and threatened to kill Sanders if Sanders ever came back to Ray’s trailer.

Later that same evening, Bucklew returned to the trailer, found Ray alone, threatened her with a knife, cut her jaw, and punched her in the face before leaving. Ray reported all of this to the police.

Ray moved in with Sanders, fearing to return to her own home.

Sometime during the night of March 20-21, Bucklew stole his nephew’s car, two of his brother’s pistols, two sets of his brother’s handcuffs, and a roll of duct tape. He left a note asking his family not to report his theft to the police.

By the afternoon of March 21, Bucklew began surreptitiously following Ray as she left work and ran errands, ultimately discovering where she lived by following her to Sanders trailer.

Bucklew knocked on Sander’s trailer door. One of Sander’s children opened the door. Sanders grabbed a shotgun from the back bedroom. Bucklew entered the trailer with a pistol in each hand.

Sanders came into the hallway carrying a shotgun. Bucklew without further warning began shooting at Sanders. 

Bucklew aimed the gun at Sanders’s head but when he saw Sander’s six-year-old son. Bucklew fired at the boy instead. The shot missed.

Ray stepped between Bucklew and Sanders, who was holding his chest as he slumped against the wall. Bucklew told Ray to drop to her knees. When she delayed, he struck her face with the pistol breaking her jaw, and knocking her to the kitchen floor in a semi-coherent condition.. He produced handcuffs, handcuffed her hands behind her back and dragged her to the car. The two drove away.

Bucklew demanded sex. When all of the acts he demanded were not performed, Bucklew raped Ray.

Trooper James Hedrich saw the car, they ultimately apprehended Bucklew after a gunfight in which both a trooper and Bucklew were wounded by gunshot.

Michael Sanders bled to death from his wounds.

A jury convicted Bucklew of first degree murder, kidnapping, and first degree burglary and recommended the death sentence, which the trial court imposed. Bucklew appeals.

A jury convicted Bucklew of first degree murder, kidnapping, and first degree burglary and recommended the death sentence, which the trial court imposed. Bucklew appeals.

Bucklew’s alternative theory for the claim that the videotape should have been suppressed is that his medical condition at the time.

Bucklew was articulate and alert throughout the taping, speaking clearly, providing details, and offering reasons for giving the statement.

Bucklew was a violent prior and persistent offender with an abusive past. The nature of this crime, the history of the defendant and the strength of the evidence support the death sentence.

The trial court sentenced Bucklew to death

He claims that his ability to understand the choices put before him was compromised by his injuries, pain he was suffering and medication he was taking for that pain.

The challenged videotape begins with Bucklew stating that he earlier received Miranda warnings and that he signed a written waiver of rights. He clearly was informed of his rights. His waiver was knowing.

a deficient mental condition, whether manifested by delusional behavior or a positive drug test, does not by itself render a statement unintelligent. A defendant does not have the constitutional right “‘to confess to his crime only when totally rational and properly motivated.

During the entire videotaped statement–which runs nearly two hours–Bucklew spoke clearly, without confusion or uncertainty.

In order to convict a person of first degree murder the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly took the life of another after deliberation upon the matter.