S.C. ready to ‘carry out executions by lethal injection’
Electric chair is the state’s default method of execution but inmates can choose death by firing squad or lethal injection
By Anna Wilder
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina is ready to resume executions by lethal injection.
In a press release Tuesday afternoon from Gov. Henry McMaster’s office, the governor and the S.C. Department of Corrections said they informed the S.C. Supreme Court that the department is “now prepared to carry out executions by lethal injection.”
“Justice has been delayed for too long in South Carolina,” McMaster said in the press release. “This filing brings our state one step closer to being able to once again carry out the rule of law and bring grieving families and loved ones the closure they are rightfully owed.”
The Palmetto State has had an unintended 12-year halt on executions due to the state’s batch of lethal injection drugs expiring in 2013. Two years ago in 2021, state officials tried to resume executions by creating a firing squad or giving death row inmates the option of electrocution. However, that law is now under contention in the state Supreme Court concerning whether those executions constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
In early January, the S.C. Supreme Court heard arguments over a circuit court ruling in which state Judge Jocelyn Newman ruled that two of the state’s three methods for electrocution — the firing squad and the electric chair — were unconstitutional.
In late January, the state Supreme Court sent the case back down to lower court, asking why the Department of Corrections had yet to obtain drugs for lethal injections. The high court never ruled whether the electric chair or firing squad was unconstitutional. But now, the question still sits before the state Supreme Court of when and whether any executions can be carried out, including by lethal injection.
South Carolina law specifies the electric chair as the default method of execution while giving inmates the option of choosing death by firing squad or lethal injection if those methods are available. All three methods outlined in law are now available to carry out a death sentence.
The Department of Corrections made more than 1,300 contacts in search of lethal injection drugs, according to the press release. Those inquiries included drug manufacturers, suppliers, compounding pharmacies and other potential sources.
Ultimately, the state was able to secure pentobarbital, for carrying out an execution by lethal injection under a one-drug protocol. The release did not specify from what source the drug was procured.
The lethal injection policy will now be a one-drug protocol, which is “identical to protocols used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and at least six other states,” the press release said. It also stated the use of this drug has been upheld against constitutional challenges.
In early May, McMaster signed a shield law into effect, which hides the identities of the companies selling the lethal drug injections. The bill, S. 120, also contains provisions to keep the identities of people involved in preparing the execution secret, including execution team members, according to previous reporting by The State.
The press release did not say when executions would resume or who would be first on the list. There are currently 34 people on South Carolina’s death row, with one inmate who is on both South Carolina’s and California’s death row for two different crimes, according to the Department of Corrections.
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