With 30 inmates on death row, S.C. bill seeks to restart executions

Right now, South Carolina has more than two-dozen inmates on death row – and no way to legally carry out their executions.
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 4:42 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A bill advancing at the State House right now could allow halted executions to resume in South Carolina.

That’s even if the state Supreme Court strikes down the two currently available methods of capital punishment – the firing squad and electric chair.

The state Supreme Court hasn’t yet delivered a ruling on whether the firing squad and electric chair are constitutional – and there’s no deadline on that.

The state’s supply of lethal injection drugs expired 10 years ago, and it hasn’t carried out an execution since 2011, or even been able to get a new supply of the drugs.


Now as a way to move things along, some lawmakers are trying to pass a law shielding the identities of a company that provides the drugs and any pharmacist or prison employees involved.

“This is not a guarantee that we will be able to obtain the drugs,” said Bryan Stirling, director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections. This is just another tool that we will be able to use to obtain the drugs and go to the companies and say, ‘You will be protected from public disclosure.’”

Opponents argue the bill would cloud government transparency – even keeping lawmakers themselves from knowing who the state is working with – and how much money is going toward it.

“We want full disclosure, full transparency when it comes to every aspect of our government, especially when it comes to government killings on citizens,” said Allie Menegakis of South Carolina for Criminal Justice Reform.

Senators voted along party lines to advance this bill – with Republicans in favor – so it’ll next be heard at the committee level, likely within the next two weeks.

The Republican-dominated South Carolina General Assembly has joined the GOP governor in trying to restart executions. About 30 inmates are on death row and four of the condemned are out of appeals.

Two years ago, the Legislature passed a law creating a firing squad and giving inmates a choice between dying by bullets to the heart or in the state’s electric chair, which was first used to kill an inmate in 1913. The death chamber in Columbia last used it in 2008.

But that law is on hold, challenged by death row inmates who say both the firing squad and electric chair are constitutionally prohibited cruel and unusual punishments.