SC ready to carry out executions by lethal injection again, governor says

McMaster and the state Department of Corrections told the Supreme Court Tuesday that the state can now carry out executions using lethal injection.
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 4:41 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2023 at 11:21 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster and the South Carolina Department of Corrections told the state’s Supreme Court Tuesday that the state can now carry out executions using lethal injection now that lawmakers passed a “shield law.”

The notification came in the form of a legal filing to the high court.

“Justice has been delayed for too long in South Carolina,” McMaster said. “This filing brings our state one step closer to being able to once again carry out the rule of law and bring grieving families and loved ones the closure they are rightfully owed.”

McMaster had called for state lawmakers to pass a shield law, which would protect the identities of those involved “in the planning or execution of a death sentence,” a release from the governor’s office states. Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling made similar pleas of lawmakers to pass such a law. South Carolina had an unintended 12-year moratorium on the death penalty after its lethal injection drugs passed their expiration date and pharmacies refused to sell the state more.

The state’s General Assembly passed a law to enact the Shield Statute this year. McMaster signed the statute into law on May 12 and the state’s Department of Corrections continued its efforts to secure the drugs with the new shield provision in place.

Two years ago, South Carolina tried to work around the lack of lethal injection drugs by passing a law creating a firing squad and giving inmates a choice between dying by bullets to the heart or in the state’s electric chair, which was first used to kill an inmate in 1913. But a court challenge over whether those execution methods are constitutionally prohibited as cruel and unusual punishments put the new law on hold.

The governor’s office said the South Carolina Department of Corrections made more than 1,300 contacts in search of lethal injection drugs, including drug manufacturers, supplies, compounding pharmacies and other potential sources.

The state has been able to secure pentobarbital for carrying out an execution by lethal injection under a one-drug protocol, the governor’s office said.

“The department’s lethal injection policy has been revised to provide for the use of a one-drug protocol,” a release from the governor’s office states. “The new protocol is essentially identical to protocols used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and at least six other states. Courts have upheld the use of this drug against constitutional challenges.”

South Carolina law specifies the electric chair as the default method of execution while giving inmates the option of choosing death by firing squad or lethal injection if those methods are available. All three methods outlined in law are now available to carry out a death sentence.