South Carolina plans first execution after preparing death chamber for firing squad

South Carolina scheduled its first execution after corrections officers finished updating the death room to prepare for firing squad executions

The Supreme Court Clerk has set an April 29 execution date for Richard Moore, a 57-year-old man who spent more than two decades on death row after being convicted of murdering grocery store clerk James Mahoney in Spartanburg.

Moore could face the choice between the electric chair and the firing squad, two options available to death row inmates after lawmakers amended the state’s death penalty law last year in an attempt to circumvent a 10-year pause in executions. , attributed to the correction office. inability to obtain lethal injection drugs.

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This 2019 photo shows the electric chair previously used by the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

Kinard Lisbon/South Carolina Corrections Department via AP

The new law made the electric chair the state’s primary means of execution, while giving inmates the option of death by firing squad or lethal injection, if those methods are available.

The state corrections agency said last month it had finished developing protocols for firing squad executions and had completed $53,600 in renovations to the death chamber in Columbia, installing a metal chair with braces that faced a wall with a rectangular seat. opening 15 feet away.

In the event of a firing squad execution, three volunteer gunmen—all corrections officers—will have rifles loaded with live ammunition, with their guns pointed at the prisoner’s heart. A hood is placed over the head of the detainee, who is given the opportunity to make a final statement.

South Carolina is one of eight states that still use the electric chair and one of four to allow firing squad, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

This undated photo from the South Carolina Department of Corrections shows Richard Moore.

/ AP

Moore is one of 35 men on death row in South Carolina. He had exhausted his federal appeals in 2020, and the state Supreme Court dismissed another appeal this week.

However, Associate Justice Kaye Hearn wrote a blunt 14-page dissent.

“The death penalty should be reserved for those who commit the most heinous crimes in our society, and I don’t believe Moore’s crimes rise to that level,” Hearn wrote.

Lindsey Vann, a lawyer for Moore, said on Thursday that she will ask the court to postpone the execution.

The state last planned an execution for Moore in 2020, which was subsequently postponed after prison officials said they could not receive lethal injection drugs.

During Moore’s 2001 trial, prosecutors said Moore entered the store looking for money to support his cocaine use and got into a dispute with Mahoney, who pulled a gun Moore wrestled from him.

Mahoney drew a second weapon and a firefight ensued. Mahoney shot Moore in the arm and Moore shot Mahoney in the chest. Prosecutors said Moore left a trail of blood throughout the store as he searched for money, stepping over Mahoney twice.

At the time, Moore claimed he acted in self-defense after Mahoney drew the first gun.

Moore’s supporters have argued that his crime does not rise to the level of atrocity in other death penalty cases in the state. His professional attorneys have said that because Moore didn’t have a gun in the shop, he had no intention of killing anyone when he walked in.

In 2020, South Carolina postponed Moore’s execution after the state was unable to obtain the drugs to perform a lethal injection. Moore was given the option, but declined the alternative method of execution: electrocution.

The last execution in South Carolina was in 2011, when Jeffrey Motts, who was on death row for strangling a cellmate while serving a life sentence for another murder, appealed and chose the death room.

The last time the state executed someone by electrocution was in 2008.

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