South Carolina High Court blocks two executions of electric chairs Court news


Inmates should be able to choose death by platoon, according to court rules, as U.S. states are looking for alternatives to lethal injection amid drug shortages.

The highest court in the US state of South Carolina has blocked two executions for the electric chair set for this month under the state’s recently revised death penalty law, as U.S. states struggle to find alternatives to lethal injections amid a drug shortage.

South Carolina had planned to execute Brad Sigmon, who was convicted of two murders in 2002, with the electric chair on Friday, the first use of the death penalty in the state in a decade. The execution of Freddie Owen’s electric chair, for murder during an armed robbery, was scheduled for June 25.

But the state Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that men cannot be killed until they have the choice of death by a platoon, as set out in the revised state law, which binds convicts to choose between electrocution or platoon if lethal injects are not available.

The statute aims to restart executions after an involuntary pause of ten years that the state attributed to the impossibility of acquiring the drug.

The electric chair from South Carolina to Columbia is shown in this 2019 photo [File: Kinard Lisbon/South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP Photo]

A spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Corrections he said local outlet The Greenville News that the “department is moving forward with the creation of policies and procedures for a firing squad. We are seeking guidance for other states in this process.”

“We will notify the court when a firing squad becomes an option for executions “.

Lawyers for the two men had argued that electrocution death is cruel and unusual. They also said that men have the right to die by lethal injection and that the state has not exhausted all methods of obtaining lethal injection drugs.

Richard Moore, another convicted inmate, was scheduled to be sentenced to death in December 2020, but the South Carolina Supreme Court previously delayed his execution due to a lack of lethal injection drugs.

Moore has filed a petition in the state high court to step down death penalty and is waiting for an answer. The last person to be executed by an electric chair was murderer Lynda Lyon Block convicted in 2002 in Alabama.

Gas chambers

Alongside the electric chair and firing squads, some states plan to use gas chambers for the death penalty.

Arizona began to reform its gas chamber, last used 22 years ago, to execute inmates late last year. The state also bought hydrogen cyanide gas, which the Nazis used to kill 865,000 Jews in the Auschwitz concentration camp alone.

Alabama could also plan to start executions by gas chamber, but with nitrogen hypoxia.

Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) reported that the Alabama Department of Corrections “is about to complete the initial physical construction of the nitrogen hypoxia system and its safety measures,” citing court records.

“Once construction is complete … a security expert will visit the site to evaluate the system and look for any points of concern that need to be addressed.”

The files did not explicitly specify whether the state planned to use the gas chamber for a specific execution.

According to DPIC chief executive Robert Dunham, he told Newsweek that the nitrogen hypoxia execution “had never been done before and no one has any idea whether it will work as advocates say it does”.

“And there’s no way to prove it because it’s completely unethical to experimentally kill someone against their will,” he said.

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