South Carolina plans first execution after death chamber is readied for firing squad

South Carolina has scheduled its first execution after correctional officers completed upgrading the death chamber to prepare for it Executions by firing squad.

The state Supreme Court clerk has set the execution date for April 29 for Richard Moore, a 57-year-old man who has spent more than two decades on death row after being convicted of the murder of grocery store clerk James Mahoney in Spartanburg had been convicted.

Moore could choose between the electric chair and the firing squad, two options available to death row inmates after lawmakers changed the state’s death penalty law last year to circumvent a decades-long hiatus in executions that the Correctional Service attributes to its inability to use lethal injectable drugs procure.

death penalty
This 2019 photo shows the electric chair previously used by the South Carolina Department of Justice.

Kinard Lisbon/South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP


The new law made the electric chair the state’s primary means of execution, giving prisoners the choice of death by firing squad or lethal injection, where those methods are available.

The state Correctional Agency said last month it had completed development of protocols for firing squad executions and completed a $53,600 renovation at Columbia’s death chamber, installing a metal chair with shackles attached to a wall with a rectangular opening in it faces 15 feet away.

In the event of an execution by firing squad, three volunteer gunmen – all corrections officers – will have live ammunition loaded rifles, their weapons aimed at the prisoner’s heart. A hood is placed over the head of the prisoner, who is given the opportunity to make a final statement.

According to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, South Carolina is one of eight states that still uses the electric chair and one of four that allows a firing squad.

Richard Moore is in this undated photo provided by the South Carolina Department of Justice.

/AP


Moore is one of 35 men on South Carolina’s death row. He exhausted his federal appeals in 2020, and the state Supreme Court denied another appeal this week.

However, Associate Justice Kaye Hearn wrote a blunt 14-page dissent.

“The death penalty should be reserved for those who commit the most heinous crimes in our society, and I don’t think Moore’s crimes reach that level,” Hearn wrote.

Lindsey Vann, an attorney for Moore, said Thursday she will ask the court to stay the execution.

The state last scheduled an execution for Moore in 2020, which was then postponed after prison officials said they could not receive deadly injectable drugs.

During Moore’s 2001 trial, prosecutors said Moore entered the store looking for money to support his cocaine addiction and got into an argument with Mahoney, who drew a pistol, which Moore wrestled from him have.

Mahoney pulled out a second gun and a shootout ensued. Mahoney shot Moore in the arm and Moore shot Mahoney in the chest. Prosecutors said Moore left a trail of blood through the store when he was looking for cash and stepped over Mahoney twice.

At the time, Moore claimed he acted in self-defense after Mahoney pulled the first gun.

Moore’s supporters have argued that his crime is not as heinous as other death penalty cases in the state. His appeals attorneys have said that because Moore did not bring a gun into the store, he could not have intended to kill anyone when he walked in.

In 2020, South Carolina delayed Moore’s execution after the state was unable to obtain the drugs to perform the lethal injection. Moore was given the option but declined the alternative method of execution: electrocution.

South Carolina’s last execution was in 2011, when Jeffrey Motts was on death row for strangling a cellmate while serving a life sentence for another murder, gave up his appeals and chose the death row.

The last time the state electrocuted someone was in 2008.

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