COLOMBIA, SC ( Associated Press) – A judge ruled Thursday that a trial brought by four inmates challenging South Carolina’s methods of execution could go ahead as the state looks to execute its first execution in more than a decade. tries.
Circuit Judge Jocelyn Newman agreed to a request by inmates’ attorneys to closely examine officers’ claims that they could not secure lethal injection drugs, leaving the electric chair and firing squad the only options for the death penalty. Is.
Lawyers for the prisoners, who have largely exhausted their appeals, argued that dying by gunshot or electric shock would be a brutal process that violates the state’s ban on brutal, corporal and unusual punishment, And prison officials have shown little evidence they can’t find the drugs needed to administer lethal injections instead.
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The decision comes a week after the state Supreme Court set the death sentence on April 29 for Richard Bernard Moore, who died more than two decades after being convicted of the 1999 murder of convenience store clerk James Mahoney in Spartanburg. spent on the sentence.
Moore, 57, is also the first state prisoner to face a choice of execution methods last year after a law that made electrocution the default and gave prisoners the option of confronting three prison personnel with rifles. When lethal injection was not an option. State law requires him to make that choice by Friday.
State lawyers, who wanted the case dismissed, argued that neither electrocution nor firing squads are cruel, physical or unusual forms of violence, in keeping with the long history of both methods across the country.
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Grayson Lambert, representing Governor Henry McMaster, said the judge should not allow prisoners to continue expanding their legal challenges to prevent their executions as prison officials try to enforce the new law.
Lambert said, “It is telling that in every case where the plaintiff is challenging the law, he always says that the method he is facing is worse.”
Newman previously denied a request last year by two death row inmates, Freddie Owens and Brad Sigmon, who were seeking to block his scheduled execution with similar arguments. Those executions were later put on hold by the state Supreme Court as the prison authorities had not yet formed a firing squad.
If executed as prescribed, Moore would be the first person sentenced to death in the state since 2011. His lawyers are asking a federal judge to halt Moore’s execution and declare both the electric chair and firing squad unconstitutional under federal law, among other legal challenges. ,
Moore’s lawyers have called for the state’s Supreme Court to stop the executions in view of the ongoing trial. The High Court has so far ruled on the request.
South Carolina is one of eight states that still use the electric chair and one of four to allow firing squads, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based nonprofit.
There are 35 people, all men, currently on death row in South Carolina.