A Black man scheduled to be the first to be executed by the state of South Carolina in more than a decade has been given the choice of how he wants to meet his end, and he picked a firing squad.
Richard Bernard Moore has been on death row since 1999 when a jury convicted him of killing Jame Mahoney in a convenience store robbery. He’s slated to be put to death by the state on April 29.
But the Associated Press reports that South Carolina hasn’t executed anyone since 2011. Last year the state passed a law that gives condemned prisoners the option of choosing the electric chair or a firing squad. Moore chose the latter, which, unless he’s granted clemency or a last minute appeal, will force three prison workers to end his life with state-supplied firearms.
From the Associated Press
The new law was prompted by the decadelong break [in executions], which corrections officials attribute to an inability to procure the drugs needed to carry out lethal injections.
In a written statement, Moore said he didn’t concede that either method was legal or constitutional, but that he more strongly opposed death by electrocution and only chose the firing squad because he was required to make a choice.
“I believe this election is forcing me to choose between two unconstitutional methods of execution and I do not intend to waive any challenges to electrocution or firing squad by making an election,” Moore said in the statement.
The AP reported that there have only been three executions by firing squad in the U.S. since 1976; only four states permit that method of execution and only eight still use the electric chair.
Other states that still allow the death penalty have faced the same problem as South Carolina in finding available supplies of the drugs needed for the poisonous mixture used in lethal injections.
Allowing firing squads was one proposal pushed by the Trump administration in its waning days as it rushed to execute as many federal death row inmates as it could before the inauguration of current President Joe Biden, who had vowed to halt federal executions and seek to ban the practice altogether.
Firing squads and electrocution have re-emerged as potential execution methods since the mid-2010s, as pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs commonly used in lethal injections have shied away from making them available for use in state-sponsored killing.
In 2015, the Supreme Court voted to allow the state of Oklahoma to use the drug midazolam in executions even though it had been linked to several botched attempts to put prisoners to death. Oklahoma and other states decided to switch to midazolam, a sedative, after suppliers of another drug, sodium thiopental, started cutting off the supply.