Frustrated by the lack of drugs to deliver lethal injections in their state, South Carolina lawmakers are on the verge of adopting a controversial solution: forcing death row inmates to face the electric chair or the squad execution when injections are fatal.
A change bill, passed by the State Chamber this week and expected to become law in the next few days, is being hailed by Republicans, including Gov. Henry McMaster, angered by drug companies’ refusal to sell the drugs. drugs needed by states to practice. fatal injections. The lack of drugs, they say, is one of the main reasons South Carolina has not executed anyone for ten years.
Opponents of the measure are outraged by the law, which will make South Carolina the fourth state – along with Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah – in which gunshot death is an option for convicts.
“Why would South Carolina adopt the firing squad if they did so in North Korea as well?” Democratic Representative Justin Bamberg asked in an interview Thursday (13).
The dismissal measure was proposed by Democratic state senator Richard Harpootlian, a former prosecutor, who said he was more human than the electric chair. “It’s an extremely painful and horrific process,” Harpootlian said of the electrocution, “in which they catch fire and don’t die right away.”
Three inmates in the United States have been executed by firing squad since the 1970s, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. The most recent, in 2010, was Ronnie Lee Gardner, a murderer who asked Utah authorities to carry out a firing squad because it is a “much easier” method than lethal injection. and because it “contains no errors”.
On the day of Gardner’s execution, authorities placed a black hood over his head and affixed a small circular target to his heart.
Internationally, the use of firing squads is rare. In the United Arab Emirates, a murder convict was executed by a firing squad in 2014. North Korean defectors said they used this method for a series of crimes. China has used the rifle for many years, but more recently it has used lethal injection.
South Carolina’s proposal, and the heated debate that followed, comes at a difficult time for capital punishment in the United States. The country in general has abandoned this practice in recent years, but there has also been a vigorous effort to reverse this trend, led more visibly by former President Donald Trump.
After years without federal execution, the Trump administration has supervised 13, or more than 20% of the prisoners who, according to the Bureau of Prisons, were in the death row. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, campaigned with a promise to end the death penalty for federal prisoners and encourage states to do the same.
In expressing his support for an end to the death penalty, Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia, a Democrat, noted the huge racial disparity in law enforcement in his state: about 79% of executed inmates were black. “Ending the death penalty comes down to one basic question, one: is it fair?” Northam said.
A similar imbalance exists across the country, including South Carolina: Of the 284 executions carried out by the state since 1912, nearly 75% of inmates were black.
The state now has 37 men in the death row, three of whom have already exhausted appeals, authorities said.
“The families of the victims of these capital crimes are unable to mourn because we are stuck in this stage of limbo,” Republican State Congressman William Weston Newton said during a debate in the House.
But critics said lawmakers offered a backward and inhumane solution. “When we have to move forward, we like to step back,” Bamberg told colleagues during Wednesday’s House debate (12).
He cited failed and sometimes terrible executions using the electric chair, and the plight of George Stinney, a 14-year-old African-American convicted of the murder of two white girls by an all-white jury in 1944. He cited been sent to the electric chair. , subsequently acquitted posthumously in 2014.
A version of the current South Carolina bill has already passed in the State Senate. After a few procedural steps, it will likely move on to the governor, who this week has promised to sign it immediately.
“We are on the verge of bringing justice to the families of the victims and their loved ones and concluding the mourning to which they are entitled under the law,” McMaster wrote on Twitter.