Apparently, the lack of prisoners getting killed is a pressing problem in South Carolina—so much so that the state House voted on Wednesday to add the use of a firing squad to its list of execution methods.
According to the Associated Press, the state house voted 66-43 in favor of a bill that would make those on death row choose between the electric chair or a firing squad should lethal injection not be available. The last execution to occur in the state happened a decade ago, as the state’s supply of lethal injection drugs has expired and they are unable to purchase more. Currently, those imprisoned are able to choose between lethal injection and electrocution, with inmates choosing lethal injection for obvious reasons.
There are currently multiple people on death row in the state who are eligible to be executed, with three of South Carolina’s 37 death row inmates out of appeals on their cases. “Three living, breathing human beings with a heartbeat that this bill is aimed at killing,” Democratic Rep. Justin Bamberg said during a hearing. “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.”
The bill retains lethal injection as the primary method of execution if the state has the drugs, but requires prison officials to use the electric chair or firing squad if it doesn’t.
“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,” said Republican Rep. Weston Newton.
The lack of drugs, and decisions by prosecutors to seek guilty pleas with guaranteed life sentences over death penalty trials, have cut the state’s death row population nearly in half — from 60 to 37 inmates — since the last execution was carried out in 2011. From 2000 to 2010, the state averaged just under two executions a year.
The reduction also has come from natural deaths, and prisoners winning appeals and being resentenced to life without parole. Prosecutors have sent just three new inmates to death row in the past decade.
This whole situation is just strange to me. Of all the problems the state legislature decided to prioritize, killing death row inmates was the move? Some of the amendments that state Democrats attempted to add to the bill, such as livestreaming executions, were also incredibly bizarre. Personally, I think a more beneficial starting point would’ve been trying to ban the death penalty in the state outright, but that would’ve been too much like doing the right thing.
The bill previously passed through the state senate in a 32-11 vote, and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has already said he would sign the bill.
America, you never fail to be one weird, gleefully violent place.