S.C. lawmakers advance bill to shield death penalty drugmakers

South Carolina State House
South Carolina State House(Contributed)
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 4:18 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A bill that could restart lethal injections in South Carolina is now awaiting a debate at the State House.

A Senate committee on Thursday advanced a “shield law” bill that would keep drug manufacturers’ and pharmacies’ identities hidden if they sell lethal-injection drugs to South Carolina.

The bill’s advance to the Senate floor comes a week after the state Supreme Court said it was delaying a ruling on the legality of the electric chair and firing squad.

That’s to give a lower court time to determine if South Carolina did enough to try to obtain the lethal-injection drugs – which the Department of Corrections says it hasn’t been able to get since its supply expired 10 years ago.

“To not be able to carry out that law really, in my view, does a disservice to the judicial system, it does a disservice to our citizens, and it does a disservice to the families of victims,” said Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry.

South Carolina hasn’t carried out an execution since 2011, and more than 30 inmates are now on death row.

If drugmakers or compounding pharmacies sell South Carolina lethal-injection drugs, this bill would shield their identities 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.

One senator says he’s worried the shield designed to protect drug suppliers – could also prevent the state from adequately defending itself in lawsuits that could follow botched executions.

“It’s kind of like putting us in a football game. Everybody else got on pads and helmets, and we can’t even get a helmet, we can’t even get shoulder pads because this amendment will not allow us to compel disclosure or discovery,” said Sen. Karl Allen, D-Greenville.

The bill’s sponsor says the legislation would allow a judge to compel that information – but only under exceptional circumstances.

The director of the state’s prisons system has said the bill wouldn’t guarantee South Carolina would be able to obtain the drugs – but without it, discussions are impossible.