COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — The South Carolina Supreme Court said the state cannot execute a death row inmate until prison officials can offer death by firing squad as an option.
A new law enacted last month gives death row inmates the ability to choose between electrocution or death by firing squad if lethal injection is unavailable.
Governor Henry McMaster told reporters Thursday he disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision.
“The families involved here, of the victims, need justice and closure. We intended for this law to accomplish that,” he said.
Wednesday’s order from the Supreme Court comes just two days before Brad Sigmon was scheduled to be executed. His execution would have been the first held in South Carolina since 2011.
Justices vacated the execution notice because electrocution is the only method available right now.
They wrote in the order, “We further direct the Clerk of this Court not to issue another execution notice until the State notifies the Court that the Department of Corrections, in addition to maintaining the availability of electrocution, has developed and implemented appropriate protocols and policies to carry out executions by firing squad.”
The state Department of Corrections said in a statement, “We have received the order from the S.C. Supreme Court halting the upcoming executions. The department is moving ahead with creating policies and procedures for a firing squad. We are looking to other states for guidance through this process. We will notify the court when a firing squad becomes an option for executions.”
State prison officials have not announced how soon the firing squad could be ready.
Abraham Bonowitz is the director of Death Penalty Action. The national organization advocates across the country to abolish the death penalty. He helped establish the anti-death penalty group, “South Carolinians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
He said stays right before executions are not unexpected, this one is a little unusual.
“We’re talking about not issues in the prisoner’s cases..but a question of ‘is the State ready to kill them with a firing squad, electric chair or with a needle,” he said.