The Slatest

South Carolina Can Now Carry Out Death Row Executions by Firing Squad

The execution chamber at the Utah State Prison is seen after Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by a firing squad in Draper June 18, 2010.
The execution chamber at the Utah State Prison is seen after Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by a firing squad in Draper June 18, 2010. REUTERS/Trent Nelson-Salt Lake Tribune/Pool

South Carolina is now ready to start carrying out executions by firing squad, the state’s Department of Corrections said. In order to be able to carry out the executions, the state spent $53,600 in renovations to the Capital Punishment Facility at Broad River Correctional Institution. “Protocols have been written, and the department is ready to carry out an order of execution by firing squad if the inmate chooses this method,” the Department of Correction said. That makes South Carolina the fourth state, beside Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah to allow execution by firing squad.

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The change in South Carolina comes less than a year after Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill into law that made the electric chair the primary means of execution in the state. Death row inmates could also choose to die via firing squad or lethal injection. The law came as states faced trouble executing death row inmates because of difficulties obtaining lethal injection drugs. There are no executions currently scheduled in South Carolina.

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In the protocols that were outlined Friday it was detailed the inmate would have a hood over their head and a small aim would be placed over the person’s heart. Members of the firing squad are all volunteer employees from the Department of Corrections and their rifles will all be loaded with live ammunition.

When lawmakers debated the amendment to the state law to allow executions to take place despite the shortage of lethal injection drugs, some argued firing squad amounted to the least painful method available. “The death penalty is going to stay the law here for a while,” Democratic state Sen. Dick Harpootlian said. “If we’re going to have it, it ought to be humane.” South Carolina last executed an inmate in 2011 and there are 37 men on the state’s death row.

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