Senate Panel Advances Execution Bill

Concerned about shortage of drugs

Patrick Gentry
January 24, 2018 - 3:46 pm

A state Senate panel advanced two bills Wednesday that would try to get around South Carolina’s current shortage of drugs used in executions.

Department of Corrections (SCDC) officials say pharmacies have stopped supplying drugs needed for lethal injections, either because company leaders do not support the death penalty or because of threatened legal action by its opponents.

“I think everybody has to acknowledge there’s a problem right now that the Department of Corrections can’t carry out the law,” subcommittee chair State Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, said.

One bill approved Wednesday would allow pharmacies to provide the drug anonymously, also known as a “Shield law.” Stirling told committee members other states which have adopted similar laws are able to obtain needed drugs. But he admitted, “It’s a tool, not a guarantee.” Shield laws are normally used to keep secret those SCDC employees who carry out the execution.

However, opponents say they have concerns that an inmate and the general public would not know the chemical makeup of the drugs, particularly if complications arise with the execution.

The other bill would require the Department of Corrections use the electric chair if an inmate elects to use lethal injection but no drugs are available. The bill would require the agency director certify SCDC is unable to obtain the compounds needed. No inmate has chosen death by electrocution since 2008.

Both measures passed 3-1, with the lone opponent State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, saying he has issues with the lack of transparency on an issue that would end an inmate’s life.

South Carolina has not had an execution since 2011, partly due to the shortage. There are 35 inmates listed on death row in South Carolina, all of whom are currently going through their post-conviction appeals process.

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