Hoping to jump start resumption of the death penalty, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill May 14 legalizing firing squads and making killings with the state’s 109-year-old electric chair the default method of execution.
No one has been put to death in South Carolina for 10 years because lethal injection was the method used. It hasn’t been able to carry out this legalized murder since over 25 pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell their products for use in capital punishment.
There are 39 prisoners on death row in South Carolina, 21 of them African Americans.
So far, the new law has backfired. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled June 16 that the impending executions of Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owen could not proceed until the prisoners have the ability to “choose” between two methods of execution.
Since the South Carolina Department of Corrections has not yet come up with a procedure for using a firing squad, the judge said, Sigmon and Owen don’t have a choice.
The state is “looking to other states for guidance,” a Corrections official told the Greenville News, including Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah, the only state to use firing squads since 1976.
In Utah, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a prisoner sent to the firing squad is bound with leather straps across his waist and head. A black hood is put over his head and a white cloth target is pinned over his heart. Sandbags surround the chair to absorb blood. Standing 20 feet away, five sharpshooters take aim with .30 caliber rifles, one firing blanks.
Only 9% of people polled in the U.S. today think that a firing squad is humane, reported USA Today.
In the U.S. there are about 2,550 death row inmates, including 55 federal prisoners at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, and four military prisoners at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
There is growing opposition to the death penalty among working people in the U.S. and more state governments have abolished it. The American Board of Anesthesiologists voted in 2010 to revoke certification of any doctor who participates in executions.
The death penalty is a weapon of terror the ruling class wants to have at the ready to cow the working class in the years ahead as resistance grows to its rule. To do that, the capitalist rulers highlight the most horrendous crimes to win public opinion to their side.
On June 14 the Department of Justice filed a Supreme Court brief seeking to proceed with executing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now 27 years old, who was convicted in 2013 of detonating bombs at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured over 260.
President Joseph Biden, who claims he now opposes the death penalty after decades of supporting it, refuses to intervene. A June 16 statement by the White House website says the Department of Justice has “independence regarding such decisions.”