Inmate Chose ‘Firing Squad’ For Execution Prompting Stay, Debate

Richard Bernard Moore drew the death sentence for the 1999 killing of convenience store clerk James Mahoney in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Moore chose death by firing squad. The sentence was initially planned to be carried out April 29, but Moore has received a stay while his attorneys pursue legal challenges. The possible pending execution has renewed interest in how a state puts in motion its plans to shoot an inmate to death.

Firing squad is employed in only a handful of states and has not been used in the U.S. in more than a decade.

South Carolina just instituted the firing squad option last May, when Republican governor Henry McMaster signed a bill into law giving condemned inmates the choice between that and electrocution, prompted by an inability to procure lethal injection drugs.

A May 13 execution date has also been set for another inmate, Brad Sigmon. But a state judge is examining his legal argument that both electrocution and the firing squad are “barbaric” methods of killing, which would make both unconstitutional.

Due to to the state’s inability to procure the three drugs needed to carry out a lethal injection, South Carolina — once home to one of the busiest death chambers in the nation — has been unable to carry out any execution since 2011.

South Carolina is the fourth state in the country to allow use of a firing squad, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

Lawmakers in the Palmetto State for years had considered adding the firing squad as an option to approved methods, but debate never advanced. Last year, Democratic Sen. Dick Harpootlian and GOP Sen. Greg Hembree, both of whom previously served as prosecutors, again argued in favor of adding the firing squad option.

“The death penalty is going to stay the law here for a while. If it is going to remain, it ought to be humane,” Harpootlian said, positing that the firing squad provided a more humane alternative than electrocution, if executions were to continue in S.C..

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  1. Barbaric??? You just don’t get sentenced to death without commiting barbaric crimes. Only difference in this situation is the victims of these death row inmates probably didn’t deserve a barbaric slaying. Quit whining and take it like a man

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