South Carolina state senators have moved a death penalty-related bill to the top of their agenda.
The Senate voted last week to give priority status to legislation which would effectively make all executions in South Carolina come by electric chair. South Carolina has exhausted its supply of lethal injection drugs and lacks the ability to get any more now that pharmaceutical companies have stopped supplying them. The state has not executed an inmate since 2011.
In response, The other bill would require the Department of Corrections use electrocution if an inmate elects to use lethal injection but no drugs are available. S.872 would require the agency director certify SCDC is unable to obtain the compounds needed. No inmate has chosen death by electrocution since 2008.
“This is giving the Department of Corrections the ability to carry out the sentence,” State Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, said on the Senate floor.
Senators voted to set the bill to special order, which moves it to the top of the agenda of controversial bills. The move was approved in a voice vote, so a breakdown of votes is not available. However, State Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, questioned if this was the best use of lawmakers’ time with only two months left in the session and debate still needed on energy, education and other bills.
“We’re going to occupy a special order slot over something we can’t even carry out (if it passes),” Malloy said. “It’ll be lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit.”
South Carolina currently has 36 inmates listed on death row, although one is serving time in a California prison. There is uncertainty among the bill’s supporters as to whether the law would apply to those 36 after their appeals run out or if it could only apply to newly-sentenced inmates.
State Sen. Shane Martin, R-Spartanburg, argued the law is needed because prosecutors have stopped seeking the death penalty. “Even if (victims’) families sought the death penalty, and the solicitor was able to get a conviction… the law in South Carolina could never be carried out,” he said.
Another bill which would try to create a backdoor path for pharmacies to provide the drug anonymously, also known as a “shield law,” remains unchanged on the Senate agenda.