South Carolina Wants To Resume Firing Squad and Electric Chair Executions

( — Despite facing a legal challenge from a group of death row inmates in South Carolina, the state’s elected officials want to resume firing squad and electric chair executions, which they claim aren’t against state policy. The legal effort reached the South Carolina Supreme Court, which may ultimately find that firing squad and electric chair executions aren’t cruel and unusual, meaning prison officials could use the execution methods if they desire. Lethal injections might also resume in the state, despite the four death row inmates’ lawyers arguing against the use of lethal injections.

South Carolina hasn’t performed an execution in almost 13 years due to the expiration of drugs used in lethal injections. After the medicines expired, companies refused to provide more drugs to prisons without a guarantee of anonymity. The lack of lethal injection supplies established an informal moratorium on the state’s death penalty, which can now resume under new execution methods due to the state’s lack of policy compelling prison officials to use painless execution methods. According to the state’s governor’s office, painless executions aren’t mandated by South Carolina law.

South Carolina’s Supreme Court justices asked various questions about firing squads and electric chairs to determine if either method is considered cruel and unusual under constitutional standards. One justice asked about how a human skull conducts electricity and whether or not electric chairs are more painful for inmates. During the proceedings, a different justice asked about whether the inmates’ lawyers would consider lethal injection to be cruel, and the lawyers admitted that under the right circumstances, they wouldn’t oppose the execution method.

According to John Blume, one of the inmates’ attorneys, the defense wants executions to be as “humane as possible.” The defense didn’t argue against the death penalty as a concept, instead electing to campaign for painless and effective execution methods over obscure and potentially painful methods. The idea of a firing squad execution, in particular, raised eyebrows, as only three executions have used the method in the past 50 years.

Although the lawsuit argues against firing squads and electric chair executions, South Carolina lawmakers permitted the methods in 2021. The legal action on behalf of the inmates will likely fail, given the South Carolina legislature’s outspoken support for the various execution methods and the lack of state law mandating painless deaths for death row inmates. The South Carolina Supreme Court should produce a final ruling in the coming weeks, which may result in the state’s informal moratorium on executions finally ending after a decade.

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