South Carolina considering electric chair executions if lethal drugs unavailable

By Daniel Uria  |  Jan. 10, 2018 at 11:06 PM
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Jan. 10 (UPI) -- South Carolina lawmakers are considering a proposal to allow its first electric chair execution in a decade if lethal injection drugs aren't made available.

State Sen. William Timmons, R-Greenville, proposed a bill, discussed in a subcommittee Wednesday, that would allow the state to electrocute death row inmates because the state lacks chemicals necessary for lethal injections.

"I'm not changing any options, I'm just changing the way we're operating within the legal structure," Timmons said.

Presently the state is unable to execute any of its 35 death row inmates unless they elect to be executed by electric chair, a choice no inmate has made since James Earl Reed requested it in 2008.

State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, said he could support the bill, despite disagreeing with the death penalty, because it allows corrections officers to do their jobs.

"This, to me, is a question about efficiency, not about the death penalty," Hutto said.

The Dec. 1 execution of 52-year-old Bobby Wayne Stone, who was convicted in the murder of Sumter County Sheriff Sgt. Charlie Kubala in 1996, was postponed because South Carolina's supply of pentobarbital and two other drugs used in the state's lethal injection protocol expired in 2013.

Like many other states South Carolina is unable to receive new shipments of the chemicals because distributors and pharmacies that provide the drugs fear retribution or exposure.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and Corrections Department Director Bryan Stirling proposed a shield law in November that would would offer protection to the manufacturers and compounding pharmacists who provide the drugs.

A similar bill was also discussed Wednesday, but neither it nor the measure proposing executions by the electric chair moved forward.

The state's last execution took place in 2011 and some lawmakers argued the lack of a means to carry out execution has complicated the work of prosecutors, who are unable to assure families the death penalty will be carried out.

"If we're going to have it, it needs to be effective," said Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo.

State Senate Republican leader Shane Massey said the group is expected to resume discussions soon.

"I think some of the attention over the last couple of months has educated a lot of legislators about just how big of an issue it is," Massey said. "So I'm hopeful something is going to pass because I think people more so now than before recognize the immediacy of the problem."

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