In an attempt to restart executions in the state after a nearly 10-year pause, South Carolina state senators approved a measure on Tuesday that would make electrocution the state’s default execution method and add another option — death by firing squad.
Though the death penalty is legal in South Carolina, the state has not carried out an execution in almost a decade due to its inability to purchase the lethal injection drugs required, CBS News reported. Death by lethal injection is currently the default method of execution in the state, so under current law, if lethal injection drugs are unavailable, inmates can temporarily be spared.
But the new measure, approved by state senators in a 32-11 vote, allows the state Department of Corrections to bypass lethal injection in carrying out executions.
According to state records, 37 inmates are currently being housed on death row, awaiting their punishment. Should the bill be signed into law, those inmates would be forced to choose between death by firing squad or electric chair if lethal injection drugs remain unavailable.
The bill must now go through another routine procedural vote in the Senate before heading to the House for consideration. South Carolina Republican Gov. Henry McMaster told CBS News in a statement that should the legislation pass in both chambers of Congress, he would “proudly” sign it into law.
The state reportedly ran out of its supply of lethal injection drugs in 2013 and has been trying to purchase more ever since, but to no avail. Pharmaceutical companies often refuse to sell the drugs when they find out what they will be used for, especially in absence of a shield law, which the state does not currently have.
“We’ve been trying this since 2014,” South Carolina Department of Corrections director Bryan Stirling told WSPA-TV. “After a year or so I went to the legislature and told them we could not obtain the drugs to carry out an execution.”
The Republican lawmakers who introduced the bill initially only intended to change the default method of execution to electrocution, but then Democratic state Sen. Dick Harpootlian added firing squad as an option in an amendment. It may seem strange, but some see death by firing squad as a more humane approach than the electric chair.
Here’s more on the story:
SC Senate passes bill that would make electrocution primary way of execution, add firing squad