Bobby Wayne Stone awaiting execution for 22 years in South Carolina, shortage of drugs for lethal injection means he will have to wait some more
Last week, it was reported that South Carolina lawmakers were considering a legislation that would not only add firing squads as an execution option in the state but also bring back the electric chair.
The proposal already passed the state Senate by a 26-13 vote this past January, and while a similar proposal died in the House last year, it is expected to pass through this time around without any hitches.
The news came at a time when the House Criminal Laws Subcommittee approved a Senate proposal on Thursday, April 25, which changed South Carolina's default execution method to the electric chair. So, what happened to the default method, the lethal injection?
This change has been forced, in part, because prison officials have complained to lawmakers that they do not have the drugs to carry out the lethal injection because pharmaceutical companies are refusing to sell it to them.
Speaking in 2017 as the state prepared for what would have been its first execution since 2011, Gov. Henry McMaster said, "They are afraid that their names will be made known, and they don’t want to have anything to do with it for fear of retribution, or exposure of themselves, their families, their businesses."
That prisoner, 54-year-old Bobby Wayne Stone, had been on death row for 20 years at that point in time. Two years later, there seems to be no respite in sight for Stone, with the state still struggling to procure the three drugs, including pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride, required for the lethal injection.
Numerous human rights organizations have argued that Stone, while guilty of murder, is not deserving of the death penalty because of several mitigating circumstances, and it does remain to be seen whether higher courts share that view.
The story of his slow march to death row began on February 26, 1996, in Sumter County, when he decided to purchase two firearms and some alcohol so he could have fun. Towards the end of that day, Stone tried to visit an acquaintance, Mary Ruth McLeod, who lived nearby with her aunt Ruth Griffith. But Mary refused to let him into her home and asked him to leave the property, reporting the incident to the police immediately.
A short while later, Griffith heard banging on her door and gunshots outside. Because McLeod had already left the house at this point, she once again called the police. Sumter County Sheriff Sergeant Charlie Kubala was the first to respond to the scene and went to the side porch to investigate the noise, which is when Griffith claims she heard a voice yell "halt" or "hold it" followed by several gunshots.
As Kubala approached Stone, he was shot twice, once in the neck and once in the ear. He died almost immediately at the scene. Stone was tracked down just hours later by Sumter County Sheriff officers and was found lying on the murder weapon. He confessed to the crime the next morning, though he insisted he only fired his weapon accidentally because he had been startled by Kubala.
During Stone's subsequent trial, it emerged that he suffered from brain damage which allegedly affected the area of the brain that regulates behavior, as well as significant intellectual impairment. It was also told that he had a family history of schizophrenia and depression, which in turn, saw them struggle to hold down jobs and develop alcohol and drug abuse problems. He also reportedly struggled in school because his family couldn't help him.
But he was sentenced to death after a jury convicted him of first-degree murder in 1997. He has been on death row ever since, with even the setting of his execution date in 2017 mired in controversy.
The South Carolina Attorney General requested the State Supreme Court to move ahead with the execution and it was announced that he would be executed at 6 pm EST, on Friday, December 1, 2017, at the Brood River Capital Punishment Facility at the Brood River Correctional Institute in Columbia, South Carolina.
The problem with that announcement was twofold: One, he had not yet exhausted his appeals process and it was common knowledge that any execution date would be stayed by the federal court because of this reason. And two, the state, as previously mentioned, did not have the drugs to carry out Stone's preferred method of execution, the lethal injection.
The move to set a date was slammed by Justice 360, a human rights organization which fights for fairness, reliability, and transparency in the criminal justice system for people facing the death penalty in South Carolina. In a statement, they criticized the Director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, Bryan Stirling, for making public statements promising the death of Stone and attempting to force the General Assembly to pass a “secrecy” bill that would allow the State to purchase unsafe drugs for execution and shield their source from the public
Stone isn't the only prisoner on death row in the state either. Currently, 35 others are waiting for their execution dates, and it seems increasingly likelier by the day that they will meet their fate at the hands of a firing squad or an electric chair, and not the lethal injection.