Catholic leaders advocate against bill that could resume executions in SC

The South Carolina House of Representative gave a second reading, essentially passing, to S.120 in an 80-22 vote.
Published: Apr. 21, 2023 at 10:09 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2023 at 1:47 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Catholic leaders are advocating against the death penalty in South Carolina after a bill was given a second reading by lawmakers earlier this week.

The bill, S.120, passed the House Wednesday, and earlier this year it passed in the Senate. The versions of this bill are slightly different, so the chambers will have to work out a compromise before they send it to the governor.

The South Carolina House of Representatives passed the bill with a 80-22 vote.

This bill, called a “shield law,” keeps the identities of drug manufacturers and pharmacies, who sell lethal injection drugs, hidden from public disclosure. And, if signed into law, could restart lethal injections in South Carolina.

Director of the South Carolina Catholic Conference Michael Acquilano said the catholic church teaches the importance of life, and that even violent criminals are deserving of mercy.

“Even the worst of the criminals, no matter what they did, we believe that there’s more for them out there,” Acquilano said.

He said the catholic church believes that all lives matter, and that vengeance is not a solution.

“This is a form of barbarism. I’m going to hurt you because you hurt me or hurt someone else,” Acquilano said.

“In the state of South Carolina, we have enough problems in our penal institutions,” Rep. Wendell Gilliard said, describing why he was one of the 22 representatives who voted against this bill. “And even if it wasn’t that I still would’ve voted against it because I see that as an inhumane way to put anybody to rest.”

But the majority of State Representatives voted in favor of this bill. Including Rep. Weston Newton, who said in a statement that the State Department has not been able to carry out lawfully imposed sentences, leaving families of victims without closure.

Representative Weston Newton provided the following statement:

It has not escaped my attention that four inmates on death row have exhausted all appeals for crimes committed in the 1990s and early 2000s. As I stated on the House floor, the Department of Corrections has not been able to carry out lawfully imposed sentences. The families of the victims cannot get closure.

S.120 does not address if the death penalty is appropriate or warranted. The purpose of the bill is to expand on existing confidentiality in the execution process to alleviate the current difficulties in obtaining lethal injection products. Even with the passage of this legislation, there is no guarantee the Department of Corrections can obtain those products. Enactment of this bill does not eliminate witnesses to the execution, which include media, a person of the inmate’s choosing, family of the victim(s), and law enforcement and prosecution.