State Watch

South Carolina governor signs law giving death row inmates choice between firing squad or electric chair

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) signed a bill into law on Friday requiring death row inmates to choose between a firing squad or the electric chair if lethal injections are not available in an effort to restart executions after a decadelong pause, The Associated Press reports.

The AP reports that the legislation was the first bill McMaster signed of the 50 bills that were sent to his desk last Thursday. The bill requires that lethal injection be used if South Carolina has the necessary drugs but forces inmates to choose between a firing squad and the electric chair if lethal injection is not possible.

South Carolina's last execution took place in May of 2010, the AP notes, and its batch of lethal injection drugs expired in 2013. Around this same period, pharmaceutical companies began refusing to sell the drugs necessary to perform lethal injections.

Prosecutors have said that three death row inmates who have exhausted all their appeals cannot be executed because they chose lethal injection over the electric chair, according to the AP. Thus, their executions cannot take place under previous legislation as long as the drugs are not available in the state.

It is currently unclear how long it will take for the bill to go into effect. South Carolina prison officials are currently conducting research into how other states such as Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah use firing squads.

The AP reports that lawyers for the three men set to be executed are considering suing South Carolina over the new law.

"These are execution methods that previously were replaced by lethal injection, which is considered more humane, and it makes South Carolina the only state going back to the less humane execution methods," Lindsey Vann of the nonprofit Justice360 told the AP.

The news service added that several Republicans in the South Carolina state House voted against the bill after noting the state had just months prior approved a bill outlawing almost all abortions under the argument that all life is sacred.

Supporters of the firing squad bill argue that execution is still legal in the state and the families of the victims of those on death row should be considered.

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