COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — South Carolina may be one step closer to resuming executions of inmates sentenced to death.
Wednesday afternoon, the South Carolina House of Representatives voted 71-25 to give S.120 second reading. The legislation will get a procedural vote Thursday but has essentially passed the body.
The bill would keep the name of the pharmaceutical company that supplies the state lethal injection drugs a secret. The names of those of current and former execution team members would also remain private.
South Carolina has not executed an inmate in more than a decade. State prison officials say the last batch of lethal injection drugs the state had on hand expired in 2013.
Supporters of the shield law believe it could help the state obtain the drugs needed for lethal injections. House Judiciary Chairman Representative Weston Newton (R-Beaufort) said, “The Department of Corrections has not been able to carry out lawfully imposed sentences. The families of the victims cannot get closure.”
State prison officials have said with a shield law in place there’s no guarantee they’d be able to acquire the drugs, but it is another tool that can help.
Most of the debate Wednesday afternoon was focused on transparency in state government. Rep. Justin Bamberg (D-Bamberg) said, “In our desire to accomplish an objective that folks care about, we are willing to abandon all the ideals so many folks campaign on.”
Before approving the bill, the House did make a change to it. They adopted an amendment that would bar members of the General Assembly from benefiting from the shield law. The amendment’s sponsor Rep. John King (D-York) said, “I want to make sure none of us can profit from this shield law.”
The Senate passed their version of the bill with a bipartisan 39-5 vote earlier this year. The legislation will soon head back there. If Senators don’t agree with the House’s changes, it will most likely be sent to a conference committee where a group of House members and Senators will work on a compromise bill.
About two years ago, state executions law was changed to make the electric chair the primary method of execution in South Carolina. Lawmakers also opted to give inmates sentenced to death the option of choosing death by firing squad or lethal injection (if available). That law is currently blocked pending a legal challenge.
Currently, there are 34 men on death row in South Carolina prisons.