South Carolina Senators Want to Bring Back Firing Squads

Bill would make electric chair the default method
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2021 3:02 PM CST
SC Senators Vote to Bring Back Firing Squads
This March 2019 photo provided by the South Carolina Department of Corrections shows the state's electric chair, in Columbia, SC.   (Kinard Lisbon/South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP)

Firing squads will make a comeback in South Carolina if a bill being considered by the state's Senate becomes law. Under current South Carolina law, condemned inmates have the choice between lethal injection or the electric chair, and the state can't force them to die by electrocution if they choose lethal injection and the drugs are not available. The bill, which a bipartisan group of senators voted to advance on Tuesday, makes the electric chair the default method of execution and adds the firing squad option, the State reports. Inmates will be forced to choose between the electric chair and the firing squad if execution drugs are not available, which has been the case since 2016. The last execution in the state was almost 10 years ago.

Democratic state Sen. Dick Harpootlian was among those who argued in favor of firing squads. "The actual pain and suffering of death, it’s actually the least painful and the least suffering of any manner of death," said Harpootlian, who described the electric chair as a "horrible, horrible thing to do to another human being." Harpootlian, a former prosecutor who tried several death penalty cases, said he was against the death penalty in general but voted to advance the bill. "If we’re going to have it, it should be humane," he said. The bill is expected to pass a Senate vote later this week, and Gov. Henry McMaster has said he will support any "reasonable" method that will allow executions to resume, the Washington Post reports. (The most recent execution by electric chair in the US was in Tennessee last year.)

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