The governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster signed into law a bill that will force those sentenced to death for now to choose between the electric chair or a newly formed firing squad in hopes that the state can restart executions after an involuntary 10-year hiatus.
South Carolina was one of the states most prolific in executing inmates, but the lack of chemicals for the lethal injections stopped executions.
McMaster signed the bill on Friday without ceremony or fanfare, according to the state Legislature’s website. It’s the first bill the governor decided to address after nearly 50 hit his desk Thursday.
Last week, state lawmakers gave final approval to the bill, which retains the lethal injection as the primary method of execution if the state has the drugs, but requires prison officials to use the electric chair or firing squad if not.
State prosecutors have reported that three inmates have exhausted all their normal appeals, but cannot be executed because, under the previous law, inmates who do not choose the state electric chair are automatically scheduled to die from lethal injection.
All those sentenced to death have chosen the method that cannot be carried out.
The question of how soon executions can begin is still up in the air. Although the electric chair is now ready to use.
Prison officials have been doing a preliminary investigation into how firing squads carry out executions in other states, but are not sure how long it will take to have one in South Carolina.
The other three states that allow firing squad are Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah, according to the Information Center on Death penalty.
Three inmates, all in Utah, have been killed by firing squad since USA restored the death penalty in 1977.
Nineteen prisoners have died in the electric chair this century, and South Carolina it is one of eight states that can still electrocute inmates, according to the center.
Attorneys for the men with potentially imminent death dates are considering suing the new law, arguing that the state is backing down.
“These are methods of execution that were previously superseded by the lethal injection, which is considered more humane, and makes South Carolina be the only state that returns to less humane methods of execution,” said Lindsey Vann of Justice 360, a nonprofit that represents many of the men on death row from South Carolina.
From 1996 to 2009, South Carolina executed an average of three prisoners a year.
However, a lull in death row inmates who reached the end of their appeals coincided a few years later with pharmaceutical companies refusing to sell the states the drugs needed to sedate prisoners, relax their muscles and stop their hearts. .
The last run of South Carolina took place in May 2010 and his batch of lethal injection drugs expired in 2013.
Supporters of the bill said the death penalty is still legal in South Carolina and that the state owes the families of the victims to find a way to carry out the death penalty.
Democrats in the House suggested several changes to the bill that did not pass, including live streaming of executions on the Internet and requiring lawmakers to attend executions.
“We must be willing to look at the faces of the people we are voting on today to kill,” said Rep. Jermaine Johnson, a Hopkins Democrat.
Opponents also mentioned the case of 14-year-old George Stinney, whom South Carolina sent to the electric chair in 1944 after a one-day trial for the deaths of two white girls.
He was the youngest person to be executed in USA in the 20th century. A judge posthumously dismissed the African-American teenager’s conviction in 2014.
Seven Republicans in the House voted against the bill, most of them saying it made no moral sense to approve sending people to their deaths, when three months ago, many of those same lawmakers passed a bill that almost prohibited all abortions, saying that all life is sacred.
“If you agree with the electric chair, you could also agree with burning at the stake”, said Rep. Jonathon Hill, a Townville Republican.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.