Richard Bernard Moore

The South Carolina Supreme Court paused the scheduled April 29 firing squad execution of Richard Bernard Moore on April 20, 2022. (Photo: Justice 360)

South Carolina Supreme Court Pauses State's First Firing Squad Execution

Condemned prisoner Richard Bernard Moore was forced to choose whether he will be shot or electrocuted to death—methods his lawyers call "barbaric."

The South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday granted a temporary stay of execution to a condemned prisoner who was set to be the first in the state to be killed by firing squad.

The Associated Pressreports the Columbia court paused the state's scheduled April 29 killing of 57-year-old Richard Bernard Moore, who was found guilty of the 1999 murder of Spartanburg convenience store clerk James Mahoney. The state high court said it would release further details later.

Moore was forced to choose whether he would be killed by electric chair or firing squad following last year's passage by the Republican-led Legislature of a new capital punishment law. He chose the firing squad. If he is executed by the method, he will have a target placed over his heart before five correctional officers fire rifle rounds into his chest from 15 feet away.

Condemned prisoners are also technically allowed to elect to die by lethal injection, although officials in South Carolina and some of the 30 other states that allow the execution method have been unable to procure sufficient stores of the drugs used to fatally inject inmates.

Last week, Moore's legal team filed court documents challenging the constitutionality of the firing squad and electric chair, and asserting that the state should certify that lethal injection is unavailable and demonstrate a "good faith effort" to make it available.

Lawyers for Moore and three other condemned South Carolina prisoners are arguing that the electric chair and firing squad are "barbaric."

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there have been no firing squad executions in the United States since 2010, and all three that have been carried out since 1976 took place in Utah. In addition to South Carolina and Utah, Mississippi and Oklahoma also allow firing squad executions.

South Carolina and seven other states--Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee--still retain the option of killing condemned prisoners by electrocution, a method that has historically been prone to horrific errors.

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