South Carolina may use firing squad as alternative death penalty method due to drug shortage for lethal injection

South Carolina may use firing squad as alternative death penalty method due to drug shortage for lethal injection
(Source : Getty Images)

South Carolina lawmakers are said to be considering a legislation which would add firing squads as an execution option in the state. It would also bring back the electric chair for the state's death row executions.

The proposal had already passed the state Senate by a 26-13 vote this past January, and while a similar proposal had died in the House last year, this time around, it is expected to pass through without hitches.

According to the Daily Mail, the news comes 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.

The change was forced, in part, because prison officials complained to lawmakers that they did not have the drugs they needed to carry out the previously preferred method of execution, the lethal injection. Obtaining the drugs on time will be a task for them since many drug companies were outright in refusing to sell South Carolina the necessary chemicals needed for the lethal injection due to a fear of legal challenges.

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, Bobby Wayne Stone, has still not been executed because the state has not been able to procure the requisite drugs, including pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride, and Don Zelenka, South Carolina's deputy attorney general, said 29 prisoners are currently on death row in the state 

Several states also offer the electric chair as an alternative (Source: Mike Simons/Getty Images)

Now, lawmakers have decided they need other alternatives. Having passed the Senate already, the proposal to introduce firing squads is in the hands of the House Judiciary Committee. If things go as expected, it could pass and become law before the Legislature adjourns on May 9.

Republican Sen. Greg Hembree, who is an advocate for the change, said, "Inmates would have the absolute right to choose their method of execution among the two (electrocution or a firing squad) if lethal injection is not available."

It was an opinion seemingly shared across party lines. Democratic Sen. Brad Hutto had backed adding the firing squad to provide additional choices for death row inmates as well. "It should be effective and fast and do the job, and that's the problem with the electric chair," he said. 

However, South Carolina will not be the first state that would offer a firing squad as the method of execution if the proposal passes. Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah all allow for the choice of a firing squad if lethal injection isn't available while nine other states allow for electrocution in a similar scenario. 

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