The South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday halted the executions of two men set to be electrocuted, following a new law allowing condemned inmates to choose their method of execution.
The law, passed in May, mandates that prison officials offer condemned inmates the choice of the electric chair or the firing squad if lethal injection drugs are not available. The court ruled that South Carolina must halt the scheduled executions of Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens until it can form a firing squad which the inmates can then choose as a method of execution, the Associated Press reports.
“We are looking to other states for guidance through this process,” Chrysti Shain, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Corrections, told Greenville News. “We will notify the court when a firing squad becomes an option for executions.”
It was not until after Wednesday’s ruling that the Department of Corrections made plans to prepare a firing squad, Greenville News reports.
South Carolina cannot offer lethal injection as a method of execution as the state’s supply of pentobarbital, one of the drugs used in lethal injections, expired in 2013, according to the Associated Press. Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said in a 2017 press conference that drug companies were unwilling to sell lethal injection drugs to South Carolina as the state lacks shield laws that keep secret the names of lethal injection drug suppliers.
“We can’t do anything about it unless our legislature passes the shield law,” Governor Henry McMaster said during the press conference.
South Carolina had previously paused executions for ten years due to the shortage.
Sigmon was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend’s parents with a baseball bat in April 2001, while Owens was convicted of murdering a convenience store clerk during a robbery in October 1997, according to Greenville News. Sigmon was set to be executed Friday, and Owens was scheduled to die Jun. 25.
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