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death penalty

Death penalty abolitionist Abe Bonowitz of Death Penalty Action protests near the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex in Indiana on July 15, 2020. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'Absolutely Barbaric': South Carolina OKs Firing Squad Executions

"State-sanctioned murder has no place in a civilized society," said one death penalty abolitionist.

Brett Wilkins

In a move described by death penalty abolitionists as "barbaric," South Carolina on Friday gave the final approval for executions by firing squad.

According to The State, the South Carolina Department of Corrections informed state Attorney General Alan Wilson that the agency is now able to shoot condemned inmates to death using a three-person volunteer team.

A law passed last year in the Republican-led state gives condemned prisoners the choice between the electric chair, firing squad, or lethal injection, if available. The state has been unable to procure lethal injection drugs for years, as international and domestic manufacturers have been increasingly reluctant to allow their products to be used to kill people.

The Associated Press reports Democratic state Sen. Dick Harpootlian—a former prosecutor who is now a criminal defense attorney—introduced the firing squad option as a more "humane" alternative to the electric chair and lethal injection, which are both prone to horrific mishaps.

The AP described the firing squad procedure:

According to officials, the death chamber now also includes a metal chair, with restraints, in the corner of the room in which inmates will sit if they choose execution by firing squad. That chair faces a wall with a rectangular opening, 15 feet away, through which the three shooters will fire their weapons...

The three shooters, all volunteers who are employees of the Corrections Department, will have rifles loaded with live ammunition, with their weapons trained on the inmate's heart. A hood will be placed over the head of the inmate, who will be given the opportunity to make a last statement.

Minh Ngo, a California attorney and human rights activist, called the development "absolutely barbaric."

"State-sanctioned murder has no place in a civilized society," she added.

South Carolina now joins Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah in offering condemned prisoners a firing squad option.

There are 35 men awaiting execution in South Carolina, which last put someone to death in 2011 using lethal injection.


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