South Carolina House members voted Wednesday to add execution by firing squad amid a lack of lethal injection drugs, according to local newspaper The State.
State lawmakers voted 66-43 Wednesday for a bill that would add death by firing squad to the default method of execution from lethal injection to the electric chair. The state is one of nine that still use the electric chair and will become the fourth to use firing squads.
The state Senate approved the bill in March but conducted another procedural vote after some minor modifications. The bill now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who is expected to sign it.
"We are one step closer to providing victims' families and loved ones with the justice and closure they are owed by law. I will sign this legislation as soon as it gets to my desk," McMaster tweeted after the bill's passage.
We are one step closer to providing victims’ families and loved ones with the justice and closure they are owed by law. I will sign this legislation as soon as it gets to my desk.
— Gov. Henry McMaster (@henrymcmaster) May 5, 2021
Supporters say execution by firing squad will deliver justice. Opponents say the form of execution could lead to an innocent person's death.
Once McMaster signs the bill into law. It will end South Carolina's 10-year dry streak on executions. Current law states inmates have the option of death by the electric chair or lethal injection. But due to a nationwide shortage of drugs, death by firing squad is set to become a quick, cheap, and easy way to execute criminals.
"Getting the death penalty back on the track will be positive for the criminal justice system, I know it will be for the victims in those cases, unfortunately, I have victims in those cases that I've helped that are waiting too," Rep. Tommy Pope, R-York, who is also a prosecutor, told local news WIS.
Meanwhile, Democrats are concerned the law would lead to the death of potentially innocent people.
"It would not sit well on my conscience," said Rep. Jermaine Johnson, D-Richland, about the vote. "Especially in a state where we claim to be pro-life, and we claim to believe in individuals and their rights to live and survive, but we are literally talking about a bill today that if this stuff passes we are literally signing their death certificates," he said.
Utah, Mississippi, and Oklahoma are the only other states that allow death by firing squad. As soon as McMaster signs the bill into law, South Carolina will be added to the list.