South Carolina has become the fourth US state to offer firing squad executions to death row inmates. Following renovations on the “death chamber” in Columbia, the state capital, the state Corrections Department announced on Friday, March 18 that Attorney General Alan Wilson had been notified that prisoners could now be safely executed by firing squad on the premises.
- South Carolina had previously paused all executions. Due to an inability to get the drugs required for lethal injection, South Carolina has had all executions paused for the past 10 years. However, following the renovations on the death chamber, authorities are confident that capital punishment can now resume.
- The renovations to the room were minimal but necessary. The Corrections Department is said to have spent $53,600 in order to install a metal chair with restraints in the corner of the room. Inmates who choose death by firing squad will sit in the chair as three shooters fire weapons through a rectangular opening in a wall that faces the chair. The inmate will wear a hood over their head and be given a chance to make a final statement before being shot by volunteers who work for the Corrections Department. The volunteers will have their rifles trained on the inmate’s heart.
- New legislation came into play in May 2021. It made the electric chair the primary means of execution in South Carolina rather than lethal injection. Because this law is still in place, prisoners would theoretically be able to choose whether they wanted the chair or a firing squad.
- The idea to bring back firing squads was the brainchild of a Democrat. State Senator Dick Harpootlian insisted that being shot by several weapons at once was “the least painful” method available. The AP reports him as saying: “The death penalty is going to stay the law here for a while. If we’re going to have it, it ought to be humane.”