COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD)- South Carolina is expected to move forward with its first execution in over a decade when Richard Moore is put to death on April 29.
Moore has been on death row for more than two decades after being convicted in the 1999 killing of a convenience store clerk in Spartanburg.
If the execution continues as scheduled Moore will be the first man put to death by the state since 2011 and the fourth in the United States to die by firing squad in nearly half a century.
Executions in South Carolina were effectively halted back in 2020 when the state corrections department announced it could not carry out executions due to the lack of necessary drugs. Pharmaceutical companies across the country stopped selling the drugs to states making them increasingly difficult to obtain.
As a result, some states turned to alternatives. South Carolina passed a law in 2021 to make the electric chair the state’s primary method of execution while giving prisoners the option to choose firing squad or lethal injection, if available.
Here we explore the history of capital punishment in South Carolina:
How many executions have been carried out in South Carolina?
According to state law, any person who pleads guilty to or is convicted of murder can face the death penalty if the state can prove there was an aggravating circumstance.
Before 1912, individual counties in South Carolina were responsible for executions and all were done by hanging. Following that date, the state has carried out 284 executions, using both lethal injection and the electric chair.
In the past century, the majority of inmates executed by the state were men of color, according to the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Of the 284 executions, 75 were white and 209 were black. Only two women have been executed by the State of South Carolina since 1912.
In the modern era (post-1985), 43 inmates have been executed in South Carolina.
History of capital punishment in South Carolina
Executions within the state have been carried out since the early 18th century when pirates were hanged in public spaces.
But, the true history of state executions in the state begins in the latter part of the 20th century. Although death penalty statutes still existed in many states, executions were stopped in 1962 due to a national moratorium.
In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled in Furman v Georgia, that capital punishment, in some cases, constituted cruel and unusual punishment and reduced all penalties to life imprisonment. This decision effectively declared most death penalty statutes unconstitutional, including that of South Carolina.
In response, 35 states including South Carolina, modified their death penalty statutes to impose a mandatory death penalty judgment under certain circumstances. While several people in the state were sentenced under this statute, no prisoner was executed under the judgment, according to the Department of Corrections.
In 1976, another challenge would come before the Supreme Court. In Gregg v Georgia, the Court found that punishment by death did not violate cruel and unusual punishment or equal treatment under the law. So while the death penalty was ruled not unconstitutional, the Court said that individual cases should be tried on their facts, and mandatory judgments were in violation of the Constitution.
In light of that judgment, the State Attorney General declared South Carolina’s existing statute unconstitutional, and a new law was codified in 1977. The death penalty was reimposed in South Carolina in 1985 with the execution of Joseph Shaw.
It was not until 1995 that a new method of execution emerged: lethal injection. Up until that point, each person sentenced to death in the state was executed by the electric chair. Effective June 8, 1995, lethal injection became the primary method of state execution.
Facing difficulting in obtaining lethal injection drugs, the state Senate voted in favor of a 2019 proposal to bring back the electric chair and add firing squad as a method of execution.
Where are executions carried out in South Carolina?
The original execution room was located inside the Central Correctional Institute from 1912 until 1990.
In 1988, construction on a new facility began to replace the facility at CCI because the institution was closing.
Since 1990, all executions have been carried out at the Broad River Capital Punishment Facility in Columbia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.