This month, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law a bill that will reinstate the use of the electric chair in the state. The new law also allows people on death row to choose execution by firing squad.
The method of execution most recently used in our state was lethal injection. However, a shortage of lethal injection drugs ended that about a decade ago, and there have been no executions since.
Executions won’t resume any time soon. The Department of Corrections still has to work out the policy and protocols for both types of execution. Currently, 37 men are on death row in our state. Over half of those men are Black.
An exoneration after 70 years highlights the problem with executions
The reinstatement of the electric chair and the general problems that many people have with the death penalty brought back into the news the story of a Black 14-year-old South Carolina boy who was executed in the electric chair in 1944 for allegedly killing two white girls. The defendant was so small that adjustments had to be made to the chair for the execution to take place.
Seventy years later, a South Carolina judge vacated the conviction. A person who says he was with the boy at the time of the murders had finally come forward. Further, the judge determined that the boy’s confession was coerced. This case is just one more example of why executions are an unsound practice.
Is the new law regarding executions constitutional?
The new law is expected to be challenged on constitutional grounds, as the legislation was challenged while it was being debated. One legislator, who’s an attorney, argued, “With the law as it was written at the time, these individuals made a decision: Do I plead guilty or take, maybe, a life sentence…or do I go to trial and risk death? And if I do go to trial, what kind of death am I facing?” He noted that if defendants had known their choices were the electric chair or a firing squad, their decisions might have been different.
Every day in this country, people are arrested and convicted for crimes they didn’t commit — and the government keeps ignoring the statistics that indicate many on death row are innocent. If you’re facing charges for a violent offense, there’s a lot at stake. Speak to an experienced attorney right away.