New law in South Carolina makes death row inmates choose electric chair or firing squad
COLUMBIA, S.C. / NBC News — South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill into law that would make inmates choose between the electric chair or a firing squad in hopes the state can restart executions after an involuntary 10-year pause.
South Carolina had been one of the most prolific states of its size in putting inmates to death. But a lack of lethal injection drugs brought executions to a halt.
McMaster signed the bill without ceremony or fanfare, according to the state Legislature’s website. It’s the first bill he signed after 50 hit his des on Thursday.
Last week state lawmakers gave their final sign offs to the bill, which keeps lethal injection as the primary method of execution if the state has the drugs, but requires prison officials to use the electric chair or firing squad if it doesn’t.
If no selection is made, the default would be the electric chair, according to the new law.
South Carolina’s last execution took place in 2011, and its batch of lethal injection drugs expired in 2013.
Lawyers for prisoners with potentially imminent death dates are considering suing over the new law, saying the state is going backward.
“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 that represents many of the men on South Carolina’s death row.
Supporters of the bill said the death penalty remains legal in South Carolina, and the state owes it to the family of the victims to find a way to carry out the punishment.
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