Story at a glance
- The South Carolina state legislature has passed a bill that will add the firing squad to the state’s execution methods due to a lack of lethal injection drugs.
- The bill was approved 66-43 in the House on Wednesday after the state senate approved the bill in March.
- Gov. Henry McMaster has indicated he will sign the bill, which would add South Carolina to the list of four states that allow this form of lethal punishment.
The South Carolina state legislature has passed a bill that will add the firing squad to the state’s execution methods due to a lack of lethal injection drugs.
The bill was approved 66-43 in the House on Wednesday after the state’s senate approved the bill in March, The Associated Press (AP) reported. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) has indicated he will sign the bill, which would add South Carolina to the list of four states that allow this form of lethal punishment. South Carolina has not executed an inmate on death row in 10 years, according to the AP.
The vote fell mostly along party lines with just seven state Republicans voting against the bill and one Democratic lawmaker voting in favor.
Prior to the signing of this bill, South Carolina’s death row inmates had a choice between the electric chair or lethal injection, according to the AP. The bill adds the firing squad to the options, although it states that lethal injection will still be the typical method.
ACLU South Carolina executive director Frank Knaack said following the Senate vote in March the state’s “death penalty is racist, arbitrary, and error-prone.”
“Proponents of this legislation argued that the state is unable to carry out death sentences because it cannot get access to lethal injection drugs, therefore the legislature must provide an alternative method of execution,” Knaack wrote. “To support this argument, you have to assume that South Carolina’s death penalty system is fair and accurate.”
Officials told the AP that three inmates out of the 37 on death row in the state are out of appeals. Democratic state lawmakers alleged that these three inmates awaiting execution are the specific targets of the new bill.
“Three living, breathing human beings with a heartbeat that this bill is aimed at killing,” said Democratic Rep. Justin Bamberg, “If you push the green button at the end of the day and vote to pass this bill out of this body, you may as well be throwing the switch yourself.”
Meanwhile, state Republicans defended the bill as a way to offer victim’s families closure.
“Those families of victims to these capital crimes are unable to get any closure because we are caught in this limbo stage where every potential appeal has been exhausted and the legally imposed sentences cannot be carried out,” Rep. Weston Newton said.
House Democrats proposed multiple amendments, which included outlawing the death penalty, requiring lawmakers to watch executions and freeing current death row inmates from the new rule, the AP reported, but all of these amendments failed to take hold.
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