Firing-squad executions approved for South Carolina

Death sentences were halted due to the state's inability to obtain lethal injection drugs

By Kelly McClure

Nights & Weekends Editor

Published March 18, 2022 6:58PM (EDT)

US Firing Squad salute the dedication of Fifth Marine Division Cemetery (PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
US Firing Squad salute the dedication of Fifth Marine Division Cemetery (PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

The executions of death row prisoners in South Carolina have been halted for over a decade due to the state's inability to obtain lethal injection drugs. In an effort to get back on schedule, and offer what the state refers to as a humane way of doing so, death by firing-squad has been given the go-ahead in the state as of Friday now that $53,600 in renovations to the death chamber in Columbia have been completed. 

According to the South Carolina state Corrections Department, as sourced by ABC, the death chamber is now outfitted with a metal chair with restraints that prisoners will sit in if they choose to die by firing-squad. Fifteen feet away from the chair is a wall with a slit in it, and the three shooters tasked with carrying out the execution will be stationed on the other side of that wall. The three shooters will all be volunteers from the Corrections Department, and will aim to fire into the prisoner's heart after he or she has been given the opportunity to give a final statement.

Related: South Carolina set to return to firing squads following passage of GOP bill

Democratic state Sen. Dick Harpootlian is responsible for introducing execution by firing-squad as an option, according to ABC, saying it offers "the least painful" method. The electric chair remains the state's primary method of execution, but now prisoners will be presented with a choice. 

"The death penalty is going to stay the law here for a while," Harpootlian said. "If we're going to have it, it ought to be humane."

The bill to put this new method into practice, named SB 200, was advanced by the South Carolina House in May 2021, and passed on a 66-43 vote. 

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According to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center "South Carolina is one of eight states to still use the electric chair and one of four to allow a firing squad." Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah being the other three.

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By Kelly McClure

Kelly McClure is Salon's Nights and Weekends Editor covering daily news, politics and culture. Her work has been featured in Vulture, The A.V. Club, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Nylon, Vice, and elsewhere. She is the author of Something is Always Happening Somewhere.

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Aggregate Death Penalty Death Row Firing Squad South Carolina