Death row inmates in South Carolina will now be forced to decide whether to be executed via electric chair or firing squad, according to a newly signed law.
Under the new law, signed Friday by Gov. Henry McMaster, lethal injection will remain the state’s primary execution method, but inmates will be compelled to choose between the electric chair or firing squad if the drugs remain unavailable.
Those who opt not to choose, however, would die by electrocution, The State reported.
The state’s last execution occurred in May 2011, but its batch of lethal injection drugs expired in 2013, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, prompting three inmates to receive stays of executions on appeal.
South Carolina became the fourth state to allow firing squads, joining Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah. All four have retained lethal injection as their primary execution methods, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
It’s unclear how soon a condemned inmate may be executed by firing squad in South Carolina, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman told The State, adding that officials remain ready to carry out capital punishment by electric chair.
With no system in place to carry out executions by firing squad, the agency will look to other states for assistance, spokeswoman Chrysti Shain said Monday.
“We would look for guidance from other states and the courts as to what has been deemed constitutional,” Shain told the newspaper.
There’s no timeline for when such an execution would be carried out, Shain said. The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office is expecting to issue new notices of executions to the inmates, setting their punishments back in motion, according to the report.
South Carolina is one of eight states that still use the electric chair in executions. That method remains ready for use in the Palmetto State, Shain said.
South Carolina had 39 inmates on death row as of October, according to Death Penalty Information Center data. Some attorneys for the condemned inmates, meanwhile, said the state was going in the wrong direction with 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,” said Lindsey Vann of Justice 360, a nonprofit group that represents many of the men on the state’s death row.
Just three inmates, all in Utah, have been killed by firing squad since the US reinstated the death penalty in 1977.
McMaster, a Republican, signed the bill into law after the South Carolina House passed it earlier this month. The state Senate approved the legislation in March and McMaster later said he intended to sign it.
With Post wires