Convicted murderer and death row inmate Bobby Wayne Stone is scheduled to be executed on December 1.
But Governor Henry McMaster and South Carolina Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said Monday that is probably not going to happen.
“The execution date has now been set by the courts for December the first but we’re unable to do it because we don’t have the drugs that are called for in the law to do do the lethal injection,” McMaster admitted in a press briefing outside the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia. The governor urged the legislature to pass a “Shield law” which would prevent the release of company and individual names related to lethal injection drugs via subpoena or Freedom of Information Act requests.
SCDC is having a difficult time finding the drugs needed to conduct a lethal injection. McMaster and Stirling said it’s because the state cannot protect the identities of the drug companies, pharmacists, and compounding pharmacists involved.
“They are afraid that their names will be made known and they don’t want to have anything to do with it for fear of retribution or exposure of themselves, their families, their businesses,” McMaster said. “So here we are at a dead stop and we can’t do anything about it unless and until our legislature enacts the shield law that Director Stirling asked for years ago.”
Most drug manufacturers are located in the European Union, which has had restrictions on drugs being exported for capital punishment since 2011. Previously SCDC was able to get the drugs from European manufacturers, but an FDA law now prevents that. States which are currently executing death row inmates, including Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, all have shield laws.
Stirling said his agency had not been caught off guard. “I warned about this in the General Assembly when I testified and I said, ‘We’re going to be here one day, what are we going to do?”
“Anytime we started a conversation with a company that makes the drugs, a pharmacy or a compounding pharmacy or anybody that would be involved in it, they asked how they would be protected, we told them there’s no shield law,” Stirling said.
Inmates can choose their execution via either lethal injection or electrocution. Stone selected lethal injection, so SCDC must honor his request. Stirling said the only way South Carolina would return to execution by electric chair is if a court determined the drugs are unconstitutional.
“In order for us to proceed with justice in South Carolina we must be able to carry out what the law has mandated,” McMaster said. “We want them to act positively on it and quickly so that justice can be done in South Carolina according to the law.”
“And no court has done that yet,” he continued.
South Carolina has not executed a death row inmate since 2011.
Stone was sentenced to death for the 1997 slaying of a Sumter County sheriff’s deputy.