South Carolina Bill Would Make Death Row Inmates Choose Between Electrocution And Firing Squad

CHARLOTTE, NC – South Carolina may soon join a handful of states that allow a firing squad as an option for executions.

A bill making its way through the state senate would force death row inmates to choose between electrocution and firing squad, if lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

It’s been nearly 10 years since someone was put to death in South Carolina. The new bill aims to speed up the process.

“Families are waiting, victims are waiting, the state is waiting,” said State Sen. Greg Hembree of Horry county.

He co-wrote the bill and says the state hasn’t been able to get lethal injection drugs since 2016. Essentially delaying any executions by that method.

“Enables us to carry out executions when we have to whether we get the drugs or not,” explained Hembree while speaking on the senate floor.

The law would force death row inmates to choose between electrocution and firing squad if injection drugs are unavailable.

“There is nothing pleasant about it. They’re gruesome and they’re sad and tragic in a way. Justice is not always a happy place, but it’s justice,” said Hembree.

“It’s deeply disturbing to us,” said Frank Knaack.

He’s the executive director of the South Carolina ACLU.

“I think at its foundational level, there is irrefutable evidence now that South Carolina’s death penalty system is racist arbitrary and error prone,” said Knaack.

He says two innocent South Carolinians have been sentenced to death in the modern death penalty era. Knaack also says the system would be disproportionately used against the 37 inmates on death row, half of whom are Black.

“It is absolutely concerning that they are spending their time debating the method of execution instead of working to make sure that our justice system is just fair and accurate,” said Knaack.

Three states have firing squads as an execution option. It was most recently carried out in Utah in 2010.

The bill passed in the state senate and still has a couple hurdles before making it to Governor McMaster’s desk. He’s indicated that he would support a version of the bill.