South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster Signs Bill Having Death Row Inmates Choose Between Firing Squad or Electric Chair

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 03: South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster speaks to a crowd during an election night party for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on November 3, 2020 in Columbia, South Carolina. Graham defeated Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jaime Harrison. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) signed a bill on Friday forcing death row inmates to choose between death by electric chair or the recently formed firing squad.

His action followed members of the South Carolina House voting to add death via firing squad to the state’s execution methods — a move prompted by a lack of lethal injection drugs.

“This weekend, I signed legislation into law that will allow the state to carry out a death sentence,” McMaster said in a Monday social media post. “The families and loved ones of victims are owed closure and justice by law. Now, we can provide it”:

The signing follows what the AP described as “an involuntary 10-year pause” in executions due to a lack of lethal injection drugs. The bill will effectively allow executions to resume after roughly a decade. The bill is reportedly the “first bill the governor decided to deal with after nearly 50 hit his desk Thursday.”

Per the AP:

Prosecutors said three inmates have exhausted all their normal appeals, but can’t be killed because under the previous law, inmates who don’t choose the state’s 109-year-old electric chair automatically are scheduled to die by lethal injection. They have all chosen the method that can’t be carried out.

How soon executions can begin is up in the air. The electric chair is ready to use. Prison officials have been doing preliminary research into how firing squads carry out executions in other states, but are not sure how long it will take to have one in place in South Carolina.

The Republican governor’s willingness to sign the bill came as no surprise, as he signaled his intention to do so as the bill made its way through the legislature earlier this month.

“We are one step closer to providing victims’ families and loved ones with the justice and closure they are owed by law,” he said in a May 5 post, promising to sign the legislation as soon as it reached his desk:

Three other states currently allow death via firing squad. Those include Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah.

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