Who are Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens? Death row inmates first to be executed in SC in 10 years
South Carolina Circuit Judge Jocelyn Newman ruled on Tuesday, June 8, that the planned executions of two death row inmates will take place later in June, after their attorneys had filed a lawsuit arguing they can't be executed, as they were sentenced under an old law where lethal injection was the default execution method. For the last 10 years, South Carolina has maintained an involuntary pause on executions as prison officials claimed they weren't able to get hold of lethal injection drugs, neither did they have a firing squad in place.
State officials had mentioned the electric chair was ready to use, and on May 17, Governor Henry McMaster signed a new bill into law where condemned prisoners are offered the option of choosing between the electric chair and a firing squad if the drugs for lethal injection aren't available. Considering the new ruling, Newman issued the decision to let the execution of inmates Brad Sigmon and Freddie Eugene Owens proceed per their June schedule, writing that the plaintiffs "have little likelihood of success on the merits of their claim."
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Who are Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens?
The two Richmond County inmates will be the first executions carried out in South Carolina in the last 10 years, after the state's adopted default method - the lethal injection, became unprocurable. The two have exhausted all of their appeals and were scheduled to be executed earlier this year before plans were postponed due to lack of drugs required for the lethal concoction. Under the new law signed by McMaster, Sigmon and Owens, if executed, are likely to die in the state's electric chair. But attorneys with the nonprofit Justice 360 argue that the two condemned can’t be electrocuted or shot because they were sentenced under the old law.
The new law signed by McMaster also keeps lethal injection as an option if the required drugs become available again. “They are attempting to make South Carolina the first American jurisdiction to revert to a more brutal, less humane, more onerous method of execution after adopting lethal injection as a primary method,” said Justice 360 attorney Hannah Freedman, reports Post and Courier.
Crimes of Sigmon and Owens
The 63-year-old Sigmon was convicted in 2002 of the murder of his estranged girlfriend's parents. In 2001, Sigmon had beaten his ex-girlfriend's parents to death with a baseball bat after she had broken off their three-year-long relationship and moved back home. Sigmon was placed on death row in July 2002, according to the South Carolina Department of Corrections' death row list - making him one of the total 37 names on it. He is scheduled to be executed on June 18.
Owens, 43, was first sentenced to death in 1999 for the Halloween, 1997 murder of Irene Graves, a convenience store clerk. Owens had shot the woman in the head amidst a robbery because she couldn't open the store's safe. He has been sentenced to death three times, reports the publication. His execution is scheduled for June 25. In their lawsuit against the state's ruling, Sigmon and Owens's attorneys by those of McMaster and the state prisons agency. McMaster’s attorney, Grayson Lambert, told Newman in a Richland County courtroom on June 7: “They were sentenced to death. They were not sentenced to death by a particular method." Shortly after, Newman issued her decision to proceed with the executions.