GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)- Execution by firing squad could be coming to South Carolina. A bill that would effectively change the methods for carrying out executions in the state has passed the S.C. Senate and is currently in the S.C. House of Representatives.
Without access to drugs for lethal injection, executions have been on pause in South Carolina for years.
Lawmakers in Columbia are looking for a way around a lack of lethal injection drugs to begin executing inmates again.
“If we do not change the law in South Carolina, those 37 inmates in South Carolina will remain on death row,” said Rep. Jason Elliott of Greenville County, who co-sponsored the House bill.
Of the inmates on death row, several have exhausted appeals. They can’t be executed because the state’s default for execution is lethal injection, and the state hasn’t been able to get the drugs for years.
A proposal currently in the S.C. House calls for allowing death row inmates to choose between death by injection, electrocution, and a firing squad. If an inmate chooses drugs and they aren’t available, or they decide not to make a selection, the bill calls for them to be electrocuted.
The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, Frank Knaack, spoke against the bill at a hearing last week.
“From our perspective, it is inappropriate that we are discussing the method of execution when we have a death penalty system that is racist, arbitrary, and error-prone,” Knaack said.
“For example a Black male’s 18 times more likely to receive a death sentence if the victim was white versus Black,” he said.
Records show about half of inmates on South Carolina’s death row are Black, while only 27 percent of South Carolina’s population is Black.
A spokesperson with the South Carolina Department of Corrections said a law to shield the identities of companies who sell lethal injection drugs could provide another tool to help make lethal injection possible in South Carolina
“The shield law since I’ve been here in the past several years has not been on the table for the legislature to pass,” Elliott said.
He said ultimately, decisions about the death penalty are up to the people of South Carolina.
“I think about the gruesome way in which many of these 37 plus victims have suffered at the hands of those 37 inmates that have been sentenced to death,” he said.
Rep. Elliott told 7News he expects the bill to pass within the next two weeks.