As South Carolina lawmakers look to expand the state’s execution methods, anti-death penalty advocates are continuing to challenge the institution of capital punishment.
South Carolina currently allows prisoners a choice between lethal injection and the electric chair, and inmates cannot die by an execution method they did not choose. Since the state’s supply of lethal injection drugs has expired, however, South Carolina has been unable to conduct executions.
According to The Associated Press, South Carolina senators approved a bill in a 32-11 vote on Tuesday that would require prison officials to execute criminals by firing squad or the electric chair if lethal injection is unavailable. A similar bill being considered in the House does not contain the firing squad alternative but may include it after senators vote on their version of the bill later this week.
The state has not put an inmate to death in nearly ten years, but legislators’ efforts to change the laws governing the execution process could resume death sentences. The action has prompted some anti-death penalty advocates to question whether the death penalty system is even worth investing in.
Opponents of capital punishment often argue the flaws of the death penalty system render it unable to deliver any form of justice.
Proponents typically claim the opposite, arguing the only just punishment for certain crimes is death. Hannah Cox, the national manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, disagrees.
Cox’s organization comprises a network of conservatives who “question the alignment of capital punishment with conservative principles and values.” They also argue the policy contains far too many flaws to make it worth supporting.
“If you do even the most basic research into the death penalty system, you will find that who gets the death penalty is determined by the location where the crime is committed,” the policy advocate told The Western Journal.
“There’s nothing at all to indicate the people who end up on death row have committed more violent crimes or more heinous crimes than those who get lesser sentences,” Cox added.
“And it’s worth pointing out yet again that only 60 percent of homicides even get solved in this country or anywhere else,” Cox said. “So the death penalty is, again, something where we waste a ton of money being performative instead of actually going and solving more crimes, which is something that actually would decrease crime.”
Cox noted that legislators like those in South Carolina have become “increasingly desperate” to ensure their state can conduct executions. According to the policy advocate, pharmaceutical companies that create products intended to “save lives” do not want to see their medications used to carry out executions.
She went on to say that legislators are now looking to implement “embarrassing and outdated methods like the electric chair” due to drug manufacturers’ conscience objections.
Stinney was 14 years old when he was sentenced to death by electrocution after a one-day trial in 1944, allegedly for killing two white girls. In 2014, a judge overturned the teen’s conviction, citing the poor way authorities handled the case.
“Stinney’s supporters said there was no physical evidence linking him to the deaths,” the AP reported. “His executioners noted the electric chair straps didn’t fit him, and an electrode was too big for his leg. He was the youngest person executed in the United States in the 20th century.”
“It’s like, is this really what you want your state to look like and be known for?” Cox said in regard to the Stinney case. “I mean, the state has enough to overcome as it is … but I think they are grasping at straws, and I think they are fighting a losing battle.”
“We’re winning the death penalty repeal battle quite quickly,” Cox said. “We now only have … 24 states that still have active death penalty systems, and over a third of those have not carried out an execution in a decade or more.”
Another argument Cox cited in favor of the death penalty’s repeal is that many states that have it tend to be “poorer states” with “worse public safety records.”
Cox called on voters to hold legislators accountable for their support of the death penalty.
“You have the outcomes you have because these states are wasting their resources and they’re not keeping up with the times, whereas in other states, they’ve moved further ahead,” she said. “They recognize what doesn’t work, they’re trying new innovative approaches and they’re getting better results with lower cost.”
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