South Carolina’s First-Ever Execution by Firing Squad Stopped by State Supreme Court

On Wednesday, South Carolina’s highest court issued a temporary stay preventing the state from enforcing what was to be its first-ever execution of the firing squad.

The state Supreme Court order at least temporarily stays the scheduled April 29 execution of Richard Bernard Moore, who was sentenced to death for the 1999 murder of Spartanburg convenience store clerk James Mahoney.

The court said in issuing the temporary stay that it would issue a more detailed order later.

Lawyers for the 57-year-old inmate had requested a stay, citing ongoing litigation in another court challenging the constitutionality of South Carolina’s execution methods, which also include the electric chair. Moore’s lawyers also wanted time to ask the United States Supreme Court to consider whether Moore’s sentence was proportionate to his crime.

More than a decade has passed since the last execution by firing squad in the United States. The state of Utah has carried out all three such executions in the country since 1976, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. The most recent was in 2010, when Ronnie Lee Gardner faced a team of five.

The South Carolina Supreme Court also set a May 13 execution date on Wednesday for Brad Sigmon, 64, who was convicted in 2002 of the double murder of his ex-girlfriend’s parents in Greenville County.

Execution in South Carolina
Richard Moore shown in a photo.

South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP

A state judge agreed last week to consider a legal challenge brought by Moore, Sigmon and two other death row inmates who have mostly exhausted their appeals. Their lawyers claim that electrocution and firing squad are “barbaric” methods of killing. Lawyers for the prisoners also want the judge to look closely at claims by prison officials that they cannot obtain lethal injection drugs, citing executions by this method carried out by other states and the federal government in recent years. .

The last execution in South Carolina was in 2011. State officials attributed the decade-long hiatus to an inability to obtain lethal injection drugs after the state’s last batch expired in 2013. Efforts to contact formula manufacturers and pharmacies have proven unsuccessful, corrections officials have said repeatedly. mentioned.

A 2021 law aimed at addressing this issue made the electric chair the default method of execution instead of lethal injection, and also codified firing squad as an alternative option for convicted inmates.

Moore’s execution date was set after corrections officials revealed last month that they had completed renovations to the state’s death chamber at Columbia to house the firing squad and had also developed new execution protocols.

But Moore elected execution by firing squad earlier this month, he claimed in a written statement that he was forced to make a decision within a time limit set by state law and still found both options unconstitutional.

Moore is also separately asking a federal judge to determine whether the firing squad and electric chair are cruel and unusual.

South Carolina is one of eight states that still use the electric chair and one of four, including Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah — to authorize a firing squad, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Moore spent more than two decades on death row after being convicted in 2001 of the shooting death of convenience store clerk James Mahoney. Prosecutors said during his trial that he walked into Nikki’s Speedy Mart in Spartanburg looking for money to support his cocaine use. He then argued with Mahoney, who pulled out a gun which Moore snatched from him. Mahoney pulled out a second gun and a shootout ensued, with Mahoney shooting Moore in the arm and Moore shooting Mahoney in the chest.

Moore’s attorneys said Moore could not have intended to kill anyone when he entered the store because he had not brought a gun with him.

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