It's been a decade since South Carolina has electrocuted anyone.
Because of problems with obtaining the drugs used to kill death row inmates, some state lawmakers are considering putting the electric chair back into action.
Lethal injection has long been the preferred way of killing death row inmates, but the state is finding it difficult to obtain the drugs used in lethal injection.
Why can't South Carolina get the drugs to use in lethal injections, and what are state lawmakers trying to do about it?
The Drug Companies Don't Want Bad Press
According to SC Governor Henry McMaster, the drug companies won't provide the drugs unless the state guarantees secrecy...
McMaster said that states are struggling to procure the drugs used in executions because suppliers and people involved don't want to be identified.
"They are afraid that their names will be made known and they don't want to have anything to do with it, for fear of retribution or exposure of themselves, their families, their businesses... all perfectly good reasons," the governor said.
"So here we are at a dead stop and we can't do anything about it unless and until our legislature enacts the shield law."
These companies won't sell the drugs to South Carolina and other death penalty states out of fear of protests, lawsuits, and bad publicity.
Facing the same problem, other states have begun using different cocktails, switched to a one-drug lethal injection, or turned to alternative pharmaceutical companies to create or mix lethal drugs.
Our Governor Wants to Protect the Drug Companies
While Corrections Department director Bryan Stirling and some South Carolina senators are pushing for a return to the electric chair, Gov. Henry McMaster is urging lawmakers to pass a "shield law" that would keep secret the identities of pharmaceutical companies that provide the chemicals used in lethal injections.
Similar shield laws have passed in several states, including Ohio, Texas, Arizona, and Oklahoma.
What's the problem with "shield laws" for pharmaceutical companies? We don't know where the drugs are coming from and who is responsible for making them. There is no accountability.
If the law provides for state-sponsored killings, then it is legal for the state to carry out those killings. But, when an inmate is subjected to torture as a result of a botched execution with an ineffective drug cocktail, that is cruel and unusual punishment that violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
"If the government is going to exercise this power ... they should do so in a transparent manner and with accountability to the citizens of this state," said Lindsey Vann, executive director of Justice 360, a Columbia-based non-profit that represents death-row inmates.
The Death Penalty in SC is In Limbo
South Carolina has not executed anyone since 2011, in large part because of the difficulty in obtaining the drugs used in lethal injection. According to Stirling, the state can electrocute death row inmates only if they request the electric chair be used.
Not surprisingly, none of the state's 36 death row inmates have requested to be electrocuted, including Bobby Wayne Stone, who was scheduled to die in December.
Sen. William Timmons, R-Greenville, has proposed a measure that would allow the state to use the electric chair when lethal injection is not an option.
Steady Decline in Support for the Death Penalty Nationwide
The number of executions nationwide went down for many years, but they increased to 23 in 2017, up from 20 in 2016, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
According to a Gallup poll released in October, only 55 percent of Americans support the death penalty. In the mid-1990s, the approval rate for the death penalty was 80 percent.
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