New S.C. execution law faces lawsuit days after Gov. McMaster signs

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)- South Carolina’s new execution law, which brings back the electric chair and adds firing squad as an execution method, is facing a lawsuit just days after it was signed by Gov. Henry McMaster.

The lawsuit filed Monday claims the law is too vague. It was filed on behalf of the two death row inmates who have exhausted their appeals. Both were convicted of murder in Greenville.

Freddie Owens and Brad Sigmon have been sentenced to die. Sigmon was convicted of killing the parents of his ex-girlfriend. Owens was convicted of killing a convenience store clerk during a robbery. He also confessed to killing his cellmate.

For years, their executions have been on pause as the South Carolina Department of Corrections repeatedly said they haven’t been able to get lethal injection drugs.

“To me, it’s just a matter of the fact that the courts have handed down sentences that the state of South Carolina can’t carry out,” said South Carolina Sen. Ross Turner of Greenville.

Turner co-sponsored the new law, which makes the electric chair the default method of execution if the drugs aren’t available.

“These victims’ families that are waiting for justice to be carried out,” he said.

The founder of Justice 360, the organization that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the inmates, said the new law is too vague.

“This is a very poorly drafted piece of legislation,” said Justice 360 founder John Blume.

He said the court could force the General Assembly to rewrite the law. The lawsuit takes issue with the Department of Corrections’ claim that lethal injection drugs aren’t available.

“These drugs are available,” Blume said. “These other states are getting them.”

“I think this was a sort of manufactured crisis, and really, they ought to be trying to get the drugs to carry these executions out in the most humane way possible,” he said.

Turner said the law was drafted with legal challenges in mind.

“I think it’s as sound a bill as we could get through,” he said.

A spokesperson with the South Carolina Department of Corrections said they do not comment on pending litigation. They also said the electric chair is available now, while the department is still working to develop policy and protocol to implement the firing squad.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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