South Carolina Reinstates Death Penalty by Firing Squad
© AP Photo / Trent Nelson/PoolBullet holes are visible in the wood panel behind the chair in the execution chamber at the Utah State Prison after Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad
© AP Photo / Trent Nelson/Pool
The state has executed some 43 convicts since 1985, but could not kill any of the 35 inmates on death row in the past 11 years due to the refusal of pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs for lethal injection. This lack of drugs has prompted the return of old methods – the electric chair and firing squads.
South Carolina has introduced a second option for convicts facing capital punishment and now allows them to choose between a firing squad as an execution method and the electric chair. The decision came as the state's Department of Corrections reported finishing the construction of a special death chamber for this method of execution.
The room, built at one of the correction facilities in the state's capital of Columbia, hosts a metal chair with restraints where the inmate is seated during the process. Three shooters are placed behind a special wall with three rectangular openings for guns. The room also has a viewers' chamber, if someone decides to witness the grim procedure, protected by bullet-proof glass.
Just as in the case with electric chairs, convicts will have the chance to make a final statement and be given a hood to cover their face.
South Carolina is the fourth US state to allow firing squad executions along with Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Utah. At the same time, most modern firing squad executions have taken place in Utah – three out of a total of four since 1976.
The majority of the 43 people executed in South Carolina since 1985 have been killed by lethal injection, but the last person to die from it dates back to 2011. By 2013, all drugs for the injection had expired, with pharmaceutical companies refusing to sell new ones, thereby effectively stopping executions in the state. There are 35 inmates on death row right now. In 2019, state authorities first suggested returning electric chair and firing squad executions in the absence of the possibility to use lethal injections.
South Carolina is also known for issuing a death sentence to the youngest American in the 20th century, George Stinney. The 14-year-old African-American was executed in the electric chair on 16 June 1944 after being convicted of killing two girls aged 7 and 11. Decades later, in 2014, a state court ruled that Stinney did not have a fair trial at the time and cleared his name post-mortem.
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