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South Carolina Governor Approves Execution By Firing Squad

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Richard Bernard Moore – South Carolina’s first-ever death row inmate to be executed by a firing squad – has been granted a temporary stay of execution by firing squad while his attorneys pursue a legal challenge.

Moore’s death warrant, which was initially supposed to be carried out on April 29, has renewed interest in how a state sets in motion its plans to execute the inmate by firing squad. In the United States, a firing squad has only been used in a few states and has not been used in over a decade.

Last year, South Carolina introduced the firing squad option, giving condemned inmates the choice between that and electrocution, in response to the inability to procure lethal injection drugs.

The 57-year-old Moore said when he decided to use the firing squad he didn’t concede either method was legal or constitutional, but that he was more strongly opposed to death by electrocution and chose the firing squad because he was forced to make a decision.

Moore was sentenced to death for the 1999 killing of convenience store clerk James Mahoney in Spartanburg. Having planned to rob the store for money to support his cocaine habit, investigators have determined that Mahoney pulled a gun that Moore was able to wrestle from him and use to shoot the clerk.

Another inmate facing a firing squad

Another inmate, Brad Sigmon, will also be executed on May 13, although a state judge is still considering his argument that both electrocution and firing squad are “barbaric” methods of execution.

Since 1976, only three executions have been carried out by firing squad in the United States, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

Moore’s execution would mark the first since Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by a five-person firing squad in Utah in 2010.

Despite operating one of the busiest death chambers in the nation, South Carolina has not carried out an execution since 2011. Officials attribute the state’s inability to acquire the drugs needed for a lethal injection to the involuntary halt.

Those sentenced to death had the option to elect lethal injection or electrocution, meaning the state was unable to carry out the sentence if they chose injection.

South Carolina Governor approves capital punishment method

For several years, lawmakers considered including the firing squad as an approved method, but no decision was made.

However, in 2021, both Democratic Sen. Dick Harpootlian and Republican Sen. Greg Hembree, who had previously served as prosecutors, argued in favor of adding the firing squad process.

“The death penalty will remain the law here for a long time. If it is to remain, it should be humane,” Harpootlian said, supporting the notion that firing squads were more humane than electrocution if executions were to continue.

Last May, a law signed by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster made South Carolina the fourth state to allow capital punishment by firing squad, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

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