Bill To Kill Lethal Injection

May bring back Old Sparky

January 11, 2018 - 11:01 am
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JANUARY 10, 2018 BY MATT LONG (South Carolina Radio Network)

South Carolina senators are considering a proposal that would effectively eliminate lethal injection as an execution method, as the state continues to struggle finding drug suppliers.

The state Department of Corrections has been unable for years to obtain the drugs needed to conduct a lethal injection, largely due pharmaceutical companies no longer supplying them amid  pressure from the European Union.

Once a death row inmate’s appeals are exhausted, state law allows the inmate to choose whether they want to die by electrocution or lethal injection. South Carolina has not conducted an execution since 2011, partly due to the drug shortage. The last inmate to choose the electric chair was in 2008.

A Senate corrections panel debated a bill Wednesday that would eliminate the lethal injection option if the key chemical sodium thiopental is not available.

“Having a law that is ineffective is unacceptable,” lead sponsor State Sen. William Timmons, R-Greenville, said. “We have an absurd result currently. And we need to take steps to fix it and fix it quickly.”

However, members of the panel said there are potential legal issues that would need to be answered. For example: would the law apply to those already on death row (who have not yet chosen a form of execution) or could it only apply to future convictions?

“The broader we try and make the fix, the more we open the door to litigation,” State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, said.

Prosecutors say the current uncertainty about death row makes them much less likely to pursue capital cases. “Right now, we have a death penalty on the books, but it’s not effective,,” Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo told the subcommittee. “If we’re going to have it, we need to do something to fix that.”

Seventh Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette said it was a factor in the decision not to pursue the death penalty against convicted serial killer Todd Kohlhepp, who admitted killing at least seven people over 13 years in Spartanburg County. Tom Lucas, whose son was shot and killed at a Chesnee powersports store by Kohlhepp, said he and the families of other victims felt little choice but to support life imprisonment, instead.

“That was a factor,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “There were no options. We knew, with the appeal process and all this, that it was just going to be a never-ending battle.”

The panel also considered another bill that would offer anonymity to execution drug suppliers. Senators debated similar legislation last year, but it failed to gain significant traction.

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