SC bill would require death by electric chair if lethal drugs unavailable

Drug companies won't supply South Carolina with lethal drugs without immunity because they fear retribution

By Bob Montgomery

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — A bill to require death by electrocution when lethal drugs are unavailable is among several bills pre-filed by Spartanburg area lawmakers for this year's session of the state General Assembly.

Sens. Shane Martin of Pauline and Greg Hembree of Myrtle Beach pre-filed Senate Bill 200, which requires death by electric chair even if the inmate chooses to die by lethal injection but the drugs for lethal injection are not available.

Last year, former state Rep. Eddie Tallon of Spartanburg co-sponsored essentially the same bill to bring back the electric chair.
Last year, former state Rep. Eddie Tallon of Spartanburg co-sponsored essentially the same bill to bring back the electric chair. (Photo/South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP)

A bill that has been pre-filed contains the basic intent of the bill.

Last year, former state Rep. Eddie Tallon of Spartanburg co-sponsored essentially the same bill to bring back the electric chair.

Tallon explained drug companies won't supply South Carolina with lethal drugs without immunity because they fear retribution. Shield legislation that he proposed never passed.

Martin and Hembree's bill was pre-filed in the midst of a Spartanburg death penalty case.

Richard Bernard Moore, 55, has been on death row nearly two decades since being convicted in the 1999 killing of a convenience store clerk in Spartanburg County.

Moore was scheduled to die by lethal injection Dec. 4, but it was delayed indefinitely when the S.C. Department of Corrections told the state Supreme Court it could not obtain the lethal drugs. South Carolina has not had the drugs for lethal injection since 2013.

Moore, who is among 37 death row inmates, would have been the first person put to death in South Carolina in roughly a decade.

Since 1912, the state has carried out 282 executions by electric chair or lethal injection, according to the Department of Corrections.

In Moore's case, Moore declined to choose whether to die by electric chair or lethal injection. Therefore, prison officials said Moore must be executed by lethal injection by default, according to current state law.

In the absence of lethal drugs, Martin and Hembree's bill would require the Department of Corrections to carry out the execution by electrocution rather than continuing to delay the execution.

Here is a look at other bills that Republican area lawmakers have pre-filed or co-sponsored:

State Sen. Josh Kimbrell of Boiling Springs is co-sponsor of Senate Bill 1, the "South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act," which makes abortion illegal if a fetal heartbeat is detected. There would be emergency exceptions.

State Reps. Rita Allison, Bill Chumley, Max Hyde, Roger Nutt, Steve Long and Josiah Magnuson co-sponsored House Bill 3163, the "South Carolina Stands for Life Act," which also prohibits and criminalizes an abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Rep. Long pre-filed House Bill 3512, which outlaws any abortion "if the sole reason that the unborn child has a fetal anomaly."

Sens. Martin, Kimbrell and Tom Corbin co-sponsored Senate Bill 155, the "South Carolina Constitutional Carry Act of 2021," which allows a permit holder to carry a gun in "certain circumstances" on Capitol grounds and school property, and at businesses that sell alcohol on-site if the person carrying the weapon does not consume alcohol.

State Sen. Scott Talley of Spartanburg pre-filed Senate Bill 369, the "Second Amendment Protection Act." It states that any personal firearm, accessory or ammunition is not subject to any federal law as long as it remains in South Carolina, and prevents federal authorities from enforcing federal regulations.

Reps. Allison, Chumley, Nutt, Hyde, Magnuson and Long co-sponsored House Bill 3094, which allows the permit holder to carry a concealable weapon openly as well as in a vehicle.

Reps. Chumley, Magnuson and Long co-sponsored House Bill 3096, which redefines "concealable weapons permit" to "firearm" and eliminates the requirement to hold a permit ID when carrying a concealable weapon.

Rep. Long pre-filed House Bill 3503, which deletes the restriction on carrying a weapon on college property or at a collegiate athletic event.

Sen. Kimbrell pre-filed Senate Bill 405, which requires each high school to offer a course in personal finance as an elective or as a math credit.

Sen. Corbin pre-filed Senate Bill 177, which prevents employers from penalizing a worker who declines a COVID-19 vaccination. It also prevents the state Department of Health and Environmental Control from requiring a quarantine for someone who decides not to get the vaccine.

Rep. Chumley co-sponsored House Bill 3218, which prohibits the state from enforcing any federal mask mandate.

Chumley also co-sponsored House Bill 3217, which allows residents to opt out of vaccinations for any reason, and prohibits regulatory authorities "from interfering with the prescribing practices of a practitioner."

Rep. Magnuson co-sponsored House Bill 3403, which prohibits the state and local governments from ordering the closure of any business.

Magnuson also pre-filed House Bill 3497, which allows any business that has been ordered to close to continue to operate "if they can demonstrate compliance with safety precautions."

Rep. Long pre-filed House Bill 3511, which allows residents to opt out of infectious or contagious disease vaccinations, and declares it a right of people not to be vaccinated.

"Taking a vaccine should be a personal, private choice and requiring 'vaccine cards' to board planes or attend school is a very dangerous idea," Long said. "I encourage everyone to speak with a physician about the benefits and risks of taking a vaccine, but it should never be mandatory."

Magnuson pre-filed House Bill 3387, which prevents the governor from declaring a new state of emergency when the purpose is the same as the original emergency order.

Rep. Bill Taylor of Aiken pre-filed House Bill 3556, which sets a 30-day limit for a governor's declared state of emergency for public health, and requires approval from the General Assembly for an extended emergency.

Rep. Chumley pre-filed House Bill 3111, which makes Eastern Standard Time permanent year-round, starting the second Sunday of March 2021. He filed essentially the same bill last year.

Other states have passed similar measures, but federal approval is required before they can take effect.

Rep. Long pre-filed House Bill 3410 to allow the process of examining mail-in ballots to begin at 9 a.m. the day before Election Day.

It also requires the witness's signature contain the witness's driver's license or voter registration number.

"We must take every precaution possible to stop voter fraud and this is one small way we can do that," Long said.

Long also pre-filed House Bill 3496, which establishes closed primaries. In essence, it prevents Democrats from voting in Republican primaries, and vice versa.

Those registered Independent may vote in either primary. Voters are required to state their political party affiliation on the voter registration form.

"It's not uncommon for contested primaries to be won by a margin smaller than 5 percent, and election meddling by members of an opposing party can easily tip the scale," Long said. "This bill would help make our elections fair and honest."

Rep. Rosalyn Henderson-Myers of Spartanburg, the lone area Democratic state lawmaker, cosponsored House Bill 3152, which prohibits law enforcement officers from using excessive restraint, including chokeholds and strangleholds. It also grants the State Law Enforcement Division the sole authority to investigate all officer-involved uses of force that result in severe injury or death.

Henderson-Myers, chairwoman of the Criminal Justice Reform Committee for the S.C. Black Caucus, said state and local law enforcement officers support the bill.

"This arose out of all the unrest in terms of the killing of George Floyd and others, the horrible injustice we witnessed on TV, literally being murdered through the chokehold," she said.

Henderson-Myers co-sponsored House Bill 3228, which decriminalizes possession of an ounce (28 grams) or less of marijuana or 10 grams or less of hashish.

Henderson-Myers a major aim is to reduce jail overcrowding.

"An ACLU report in April 2020 says South Carolina has the second highest ranking in the nation for people being arrested for marijuana possession," she said. "With shortages of funds, we don't feel we need to spend taxpayers' money to put people in jail for simple possession of marijuana when there's no violent crime being committed at the time."

Payment of a fine rather than serving jail time is what should happen, she said.

"Once a person gets arrested, it prevents them from pulling themselves out of poverty, getting a job, federal housing and it holds a person down when we should try to uplift that person and community as a whole."

Henderson-Myers cosponsored House Bill 3361, the "South Carolina Compassionate Care Act," that legalizes the sale of medical marijuana and exempts cannabis from the state sales tax. She said the bill has bipartisan support.

Rep. Magnuson cosponsored House Bill 3016, the "South Carolina Data Privacy Act," which requires a search warrant before a law enforcement agency can seize private electronic data. It also prohibits law enforcement from collecting information from a third party without a search warrant.


(c)2021 the Spartanburg Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, S.C.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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