SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina man has declined to select how he should be executed, furthering a potential showdown over the state's use of lethal injection.
Lindsey Vann, an attorney for inmate Richard Bernard Moore, told The Herald-Journal on Friday that Moore declined to choose between lethal injection and the electric chair by the Friday deadline. That means the method of the scheduled Dec. 4 execution defaults to lethal injection under state law.
But corrections officials say they don’t have any lethal injection drugs to carry out the execution.
Moore, 55, has spent 19 years on death row after he was convicted of killing a convenience store clerk in Spartanburg.
Moore’s attorneys are seeking to stay the execution. They say the coronavirus pandemic will make the execution dangerous for those involved in the execution and witnesses. They also say the corrections department is withholding information about its execution methods, preventing Moore from making an informed decision between dying by lethal injection or by electrocution, the two options provided by state law.
Though Moore’s attorneys have sued the corrections agency in federal court to compel it to release such information, the department said in a September letter that it has been open about its lack of lethal injection drugs and that it cannot disclose details such as the identities of execution team members or drug supplies.
The agency also said it was updating any preventative measures for COVID-19 during an execution.
The corrections department’s last drugs expired in 2013, agency spokesperson Chrysti Shain confirmed Wednesday: “We have been actively pursing avenues to obtain the drugs necessary for lethal injection, but we do not have any.”
The state’s current injection protocol calls for three drugs: pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.
Like other states, South Carolina has found it increasingly difficult to secure the drugs as opponents of the death penalty have pressured manufacturers to stop providing them.
Prior attempts by the General Assembly to find alternatives and get back to regularly scheduling executions have stalled, though both Gov. Henry McMaster and Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling have pushed legislators to pass a law shielding the identities of drug manufacturers. Lawmakers also have contemplated a bill that would force inmates to the electric chair if lethal injection is not available.
South Carolina’s last execution was in 2011.