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South Carolina Revives Firing Squad for Death Penalty

After a shortage of drugs for lethal injection, state legislators passed laws bringing back the older method of capital punishment

Last week, ​​South Carolina revived firing-squad executions following a decade-long pause in death sentences because of the state’s inability to secure lethal injection medications.

On Friday, South Carolina’s Corrections Department said that renovations on the death chamber in Columbia had been completed. They also said they had notified Attorney General Alan Wilson that it could carry out a firing-squad execution.

Legislators in the state began the process of reviving the firing squad options as a way to get around the lethal injection drug shortage. House Bill 200, passed last May, made the electric chair the primary method of execution while giving inmates the option of choosing death by firing squad or lethal injection.

Democratic state Sen. Dick Harpootlian introduced the firing squad option during South Carolina’s lengthy debate on the death penalty. Harpootlian argued that it offered “the least painful” execution method available.

“The death penalty is going to stay the law here for a while,” Harpootlian said. “If we’re going to have it, it ought to be humane.”

The Capital Punishment Facility is housed inside Broad River Correctional Institute in Columbia. The corrections facility houses the state death chamber, renovated to accommodate a firing squad.

According to Department of Corrections spokesperson Chrysti Shain, the South Carolina death chamber now includes a metal chair with restraints, in which inmates will sit if they choose execution by firing squad. The metal chair faces a wall with a rectangular opening through which the three shooters will fire their weapons.

State officials also have devised protocols for carrying out the executions. The three shooters will have rifles loaded with live ammunition, and their weapons will be aimed at the inmate’s heart.

Utah has been the only state to carry a death sentence by firing squad in the past four decades. The last was in 2010 for inmate Ronnie Lee Gardner, who killed a bartender and later shot a lawyer to death and wounded a bailiff during an attempted escape from a courtroom.

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