South Carolina to bring back firing squads for executions

The state House voted 66-43 Wednesday on legislation that would allow death row inmates to choose between being shot or electrocuted if lethal injection drugs aren’t available. The state is one of nine that still use the electric chair and will become the fourth to use firing squads. 

The state Senate approved the bill in March. After another routine vote in the House, the bill will head to the desk of Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who said he will sign it. 

“We are one step closer to providing victims’ families and loved ones with the justice and closure they are owed by law,” he tweeted Wednesday after the vote. “I will sign this legislation as soon as it gets to my desk.”

Supporters say the bill will deliver justice to those convicted of violent crimes. Opponents decried the death penalty but also cited the possibility of innocent people being put to death. 

Others brought up George Stinney, the youngest person executed in the U.S. in the 20th century. He was 14 when he was sent to South Carolina’s electric chair after a one-day trial in 1944 for killing two White girls. A judge threw out the Black teen’s conviction in 2014. Newspaper stories reported that witnesses said the straps to keep him in the electric chair didn’t fit around his small frame.

“So not only did South Carolina give the electric chair to the youngest person ever in America, but the boy was innocent,” said Democratic Rep. Justin Bamberg.

This March 2019, file photo, provided by the South Carolina Department of Corrections shows the state's electric chair in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina. The state is poised to bring back firing squads to its list of execution methods amid a shortage of drugs to carry out lethal injections. (Kinard Lisbon/South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP, File)

This March 2019, file photo, provided by the South Carolina Department of Corrections shows the state’s electric chair in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina. The state is poised to bring back firing squads to its list of execution methods amid a shortage of drugs to carry out lethal injections. (Kinard Lisbon/South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP, File)

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