Call for death penalty in shooting, but state lacks the drug
22 June 2015, 08:06
Columbia - Two days after the shooting deaths of nine
people during a Bible study group at a Charleston church, Republican Governor
Nikki Haley made a bold public statement: The gunman "absolutely"
should be put to death.
But her state, though largely pro-death penalty, can't
secure one of the drugs needed for lethal injections and hasn't executed an
inmate since 2011.
Any potential execution order for Dylann Storm Roof, 21,
would be years away. He is charged with nine counts of murder in Wednesday's
massacre. He appeared briefly before a judge on Friday, and his next court
appearance isn't until October. Haley made her comments Friday on NBC's
"Today" show, but the governor has no power in Roof's prosecution or
South Carolina's supply of pentobarbital, one of three
drugs used in the state's lethal injection procedure, expired in 2013.
Corrections Director Bryan Stirling has made it clear to
legislators that his agency can't buy anymore, even as 44 people are on death
row in the state. All attempts to purchase more have failed - a problem in
states nationwide. Some are trying to find new drugs and new sources for drugs
because pharmaceutical companies have stopped selling them for executions and
pharmacists are reluctant to expose themselves to possible harassment.
Stirling advocated this year for a bill that would keep
secret the information of any company or pharmacist providing execution drugs,
saying that should help secure them. But bills have stalled in both chambers,
and opponents urged legislators not to vote for government secrecy.
The Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of
Oklahoma's three-drug injection, with inmates arguing it doesn't reliably
produce unconsciousness and causes pain and suffering. State House Judiciary chairperson
Greg Delleney, a Republican, has said he will probably wait for that decision
before asking lawmakers to vote on the bill, though Stirling notes that South
Carolina uses a different drug.
Even with the dozens of inmates on South Carolina's death
row, the next execution is probably five years away, according to Emily
Paavola, executive director of South Carolina's Death Penalty Resource and
Defence Center, which believes South Carolina's death penalty is fraught with
problems and advocates for reform. Paavola has said the only way that would
speed up is if an inmate who's sentenced to die waives all appeals - an
Death row inmates can choose electrocution, but if a prisoner
doesn't want to die that way, the prisons agency could not carry out an
execution order without the necessary drugs for a lethal injection, Stirling
Since lethal injection became an option in 1995, only
three of 39 people executed have died by electrocution.
After the bills on drugmaker secrecy stalled, Representative
Joshua Putnam, a Republican, introduced a proposal that would add death by a
five-member firing squad to the state's list of approved execution methods.
Putnam said while there are cases in which lethal
injection drugs didn't work properly and caused pain, "we do know by
firing squad you don't feel anything."
But Representative Joe Neal said that makes little sense.
"I can't think of a more hideous spectacle than
gunning down someone," said Neal, a Democrat. "Whether people suffer
or not depends on the aim of an unknown marksman."
Putnam's measure also would allow for execution by
electrocution if the state doesn't have the lethal injection drugs.
No action has occurred on any bills to change death penalty
procedures, but they can be taken up when the second of a two-year legislative
session resumes in January.