COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina senators Tuesday added a firing squad to the electric chair as alternatives if the state can’t execute condemned inmates by way of lethal injection.
The Senate then approved the bill on a key 32-11 vote with several Democrats joining Republicans in the proposal which would allow South Carolina to restart executions after nearly 10 years.
The state can’t put anyone to death now because its supply of lethal injection drugs expired and it has not been able to buy any more. Currently, inmates can choose between the electric chair and lethal injection and since the drugs are not available, they pick the method that can’t be done.
The Senate bill keeps lethal injection if the state has the drugs, but requires prison officials to use the electric chair if it is not. An inmate could choose a firing squad if they prefer.
The House is considering a similar bill without the firing squad option, but it could also consider the Senate version after a procedural vote by senators finalizes the bill later this week.
South Carolina still uses the electric chair first powered up in 1912 after taking over the death penalty from counties, which usually used hanging.
It is just one of nine states that maintains an electric chair. It would become just the fourth state to allow a firing squad with Utah, Oklahoma and Mississippi, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster asked for lawmakers to give him any way to restart executions since a few inmates have exhausted their appeals but their death sentences can’t be carried out.
A Republican and a Democrat, both former prosecutors, proposed adding the firing squad.
The Democratic former prosecutor said it is evident in a Republican dominated state like South Carolina where the GOP gained extra seats in November that the death penalty can’t be abolished like Virginia did last month.
“The death penalty is going to stay the law here for a while. If it is going to remain, it ought to be humane,” said state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, who said hanging is brutal and often leads to decapitation and in electrocution, the condemned “are burned to death.”
Cox Media Group