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US State Becomes Fourth To Offer Firing-Squad Executions For Death Row Inmates

US State Becomes Fourth To Offer Firing-Squad Executions For Death Row Inmates

The method has been given the green light following a pause in executions due to an inability to procure lethal injection drugs

Execution by firing-squad has been given the green light in South Carolina following renovations on the death chamber in the state's capital city of Columbia.

The state Corrections Department confirmed on Friday, 18 March that renovations had been completed on the chamber and that it had notified Attorney General Alan Wilson to say it was able to carry out executions by firing-squad.

It comes after the state experienced a decade-long pause in carrying out death sentences due to an inability to procure drugs required for lethal injection.

Chamber for lethal injection.

In May, legislation went into effect which made the electric chair the primary means of execution in South Carolina, while also giving inmates the option of choosing death by lethal injection or firing-squad if the methods were available.

The latter option was introduced by Democratic state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, who argued it was 'the least painful' method available. As cited by the Associated Press, he commented: "The death penalty is going to stay the law here for a while. If we’re going to have it, it ought to be humane."

Renovations to the death chamber include the addition of a metal chair with restraints located in the corner of the room, where inmates will sit if they choose to be executed by firing-squad.

To carry out the execution, three shooters will fire their weapons through a rectangular opening in a wall which faces the chair. According to officials, the Corrections Department spent $53,600 on the renovations.

Prior to their death, the inmate will have a hood placed over their head and will be given the opportunity to make a final statement. The shooters are volunteers who are employees of the Corrections Department, and will have their loaded rifles trained on the inmate's heart.


There are currently 37 inmates on death row in the state, where the most recent execution took place in 2011. South Carolina's batch of lethal injection drugs expired two years later.

A month after the revised legislation went into effect, the South Carolina Supreme Court blocked the planned executions of Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens under the ruling they could not be put to death until the firing-squad option was in place. Now renovations are complete and a firing-squad has been formed, the court will need to issue a new order for any execution to be carried out.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, South Carolina is one of eight states to still use the electric chair and one of four to allow a firing-squad as a means of execution.

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Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: US News, Crime, Politics