South Carolina legislators trying to fix a loophole in the state’s death penalty law have passed a bill that would give inmates the option to choose being executed by a firing squad.
The bill passed the state Senate last week by a vote of 32-11, with all of the chamber’s Republicans and some of its Democrats supporting the proposal, according to the Washington Examiner.
South Carolina’s most recent execution was in 2011, and that was done by lethal injection.
The state’s current death penalty law allows anyone sentenced to death to pick from two options — the electric chair or lethal injection.
But choosing lethal injection basically is a guarantee of nothing taking place, because the state has not been able to buy the drugs needed to execute inmates since about 2016, The State reported, according to Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling.
The bill’s supporters said they need to enforce the law, and they developed a proposal that would allow the state to use the electric chair if an inmate’s execution method of choice is not available.
“For several years, as most of you know, South Carolina has not been able to carry out executions,” state Sen. Greg Hembree, who co-sponsored the bill, said Tuesday on the Senate floor, according to The State.
“Families are waiting. Victims are waiting. … The state is waiting.”
The Senate-passed bill included an amendment that would allow inmates to still have a choice — the electric chair or a firing squad if lethal injection isn’t available. That led to a debate on the merits of methods of killing inmates.
“They’re dead instantly,” Democratic Sen. Richard Harpootlian said. “The actual pain and suffering of death, it’s actually the least painful and the least suffering of any manner of death.”
Others said the death penalty is wrong, regardless of how it is carried out.
Democratic Sen. Karl Allen said the death penalty is handed down to a disproportionate number of black inmates, according to CBS.
“Unfortunately, we have ignored the statistics which indicate that our implementation of the death penalty and electrocution is having a disparate impact among poor people and African-Americans,” he said.
Allen called firing squads “inhumane” and added, “It does not meet the 2021 societal norms.”
But Republican Sen. Shane Martin noted that the current law isn’t functional.
“There’s no need to have a law if we can’t enforce the law,” he said.
Republican Sen. Katrina Shealy said that when inmates are sentenced to death, “As it is right now, we have no way to put them to death. I don’t think it should be used lightly. I think it should be used, you know, when it’s called for.”
Three other states allow a firing squad to be used — Utah, Oklahoma and Mississippi.
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