South Carolina is now able to execute inmates on death row via firing squad, the South Carolina Department of Corrections announced on Friday.
A death chamber at the state’s Capital Punishment Facility has been renovated to accommodate a firing squad should the inmate select that means of execution, according to a news release.
The chamber includes a chair with metal restraints where the inmate will sit, in the corner of the chamber away from the existing electric chair. The chamber has also been retrofitted with bullet-resistant glass.
Last year, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill that declared the electric chair as the state’s primary means of execution but lets inmates decide to die by firing squad or lethal injection if those options are available.
South Carolina made the change amid ongoing problems across the country with sourcing and administering the drugs used for lethal injections — usually a cocktail of potassium chloride to stop the heart, pancuronium bromide to cause paralysis and midazolam for sedation.
The three members of the firing squad will be volunteers, the news release states. It also detailed the protocols for carrying out an execution: The squad will be situated behind a wall with their rifles, all loaded with live ammunition, pointing through an opening. The squad won’t be visible from the witness room.
The inmate will be led into the room and given the opportunity to make a last statement before being strapped to the chair and hooded. The warden will receive the execution order and the team will fire. A doctor will examine the inmate and declare them dead, and witnesses will be escorted out.
Members of the squad must be SCDC employers who “meet certain qualifications” but the news release does not detail what qualifications they must meet.
South Carolina has 35 inmates on death row. The state last executed an inmate in 2011. There are currently no executions scheduled.
“It’s tragic that a civilized society should eliminate anybody,” state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, D-Richland, one of the sponsors of the firing squad bill, told The State. “But if it has to be done, it should be done as humanely as possible.”
He added that the electric chair burns people alive.
“If you’ve got to do it, this is a better way,” Harpootlian said.
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