SC Supreme Court to hear appeal on constitutionality of state execution methods

The South Carolina Supreme Court’s order states it will hear oral arguments appealing a court...
The South Carolina Supreme Court’s order states it will hear oral arguments appealing a court ruling that the state's two available methods of execution are unconstitutional in January.(Mary Green)
Published: Sep. 16, 2022 at 12:51 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 16, 2022 at 12:55 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Supreme Court says it will hear an appeal on a judge’s ruling that executions by electric chair or firing squad violate the state constitution.

The state’s highest court issued an order Friday stating it will hear oral arguments in January.

The order came after Gov. Henry McMaster, the state’s Department of Corrections and Corrections Department Director Bryan Stirling filed an appeal Thursday to a judge’s ruling that the state’s two available methods of execution were unconstitutional.

The third method of execution, lethal injection, is currently unavailable because the state has not been able to purchase the drugs used during that procedure. Drug manufacturers have refused to sell South Carolina those drugs because they do not want their companies’ names identified as suppliers of the drugs, according to Stirling.

Both McMaster and Stirling have repeatedly called on the state’s General Assembly to pass a “shield law” which would keep the names of the companies that supply those drugs from being made public, but the General Assembly has not yet done so.

The state’s supply of drugs used in lethal injections expired in 2013, Stirling said.

Last year, the General Assembly passed a law naming the electric chair as the state’s “default method” of execution. The law mandated that any inmate who either selected a method of execution that was not available or who chose not to select a method of execution would die by electrocution when their execution date arrived.

That law prompted a lawsuit by four state death row inmates.

Judge Jocelyn Newman ruled in August that the state’s two remaining methods of execution, the electric chair and its newly-established firing squad, were a violation of the South Carolina Constitution, essentially blocking those two methods from being used.

As a result, with the two “available” options blocked and lethal injection “unavailable,” the state’s death penalty was put on indefinite hold, either until a higher court reversed Newman’s decision or until the state could obtain the drugs needed to carry out a lethal injection.

The state Supreme Court’s order indicates it will hear oral arguments in the appeal at 11 a.m. on Jan. 12 in Conway.