COLOMBIA, South Carolina – The state of South Carolina has scheduled its first execution in nearly a decade, but correctional officials say they don’t have lethal injectable drugs to do so.
The state’s Supreme Court has set a December 4 execution date for Richard Bernard Moore, a 55-year-old man who spent 19 years in prison after being convicted of killing a clerk in a Spartanburg store.
The convicted man’s lawyers are seeking to stop the execution, citing the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic to those involved in the execution and its witnesses. They also say the correctional department retains information about its methods of execution, preventing Moore from making an informed decision between death by lethal injection or electric shock, the two options provided for in state law.
“South Carolina will carry out its first execution in nearly a decade under an unprecedented veil of secrecy in the midst of a global pandemic,”
“The South Carolina Executive Department refuses to publish any information on how it intends to carry out the execution – from the type and source of the lethal injectable drugs to the condition and testing of the electric chair – creating a risk of torture without supervision. “
Although Moore’s lawyers filed a lawsuit against the correctional agency in federal court to force it to publish such information, the department said in a September letter that it had been found missing the deadly injectable drugs and could not reveal details such as the identity of the executioner. team members or drug supplies.
The agency also said it was updating all preventive measures for COVID-19 during the execution.
Under state law, Moore has up to 14 days before his execution date to choose between the two methods. If he does not make a decision, the default method is lethal injection.
But the last medication from the correction department expired in 2013, agency spokesman Chrysti Shain confirmed on Wednesday: “We are actively looking for ways to get the drugs needed for a lethal injection, but we don’t have any.”
This is a reduction to 2017.when correction officers said they could not carry out Bobby Wayne Stone ‘s execution order without proper medication. At the time, however, Stone had not yet exhausted his appeals in court.
This state injection protocol requires three drugs: pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.
Like other states, South Carolina is finding it increasingly difficult to provide drugs as opponents of the death penalty are pressuring manufacturers to stop providing them.
Previous attempts by the General Assembly to find alternatives and return to regular planning of executions have stalled, although both Gov. Henry McMaster and Director of the Penitentiary Brian Stirling have urged lawmakers to pass a law protecting the identities of drug manufacturers. Lawmakers are also considering a bill that would force it prisoners on the electric chair if there is no lethal injection.
Moore’s lawyers said Moore could also potentially seek pardon or another state complaint, according to lawsuits.
Moore is one of 37 men, all men, on death row in South Carolina. He exhausted his federal appeals earlier this month when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to open his case. Prosecutors say Moore killed James Mahoney in 1999 while robbing a store.
The last execution in South Carolina was in 2011, when Jeffrey Motts, sentenced to death for strangling a cellmate while serving a life sentence for another murder, dropped his appeals and chose the death cell.
This story corrects the spelling of Chrysti’s correction department spokesperson’s own name, not Christi’s.
Michelle Liu is a member of the Associated Press Corps / Report for the America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a national non-profit program that puts journalists in local newsrooms to report on undisclosed issues.