Richard Bernard Moore, 57, was scheduled to be executed on April 29. He would have been only the fourth prisoner in the United States to die by that method since 1976.
Moore has spent more than two decades on death row after being convicted of killing Spartanburg convenience store clerk James Mahoney during an armed robbery in 1999, as well as assault with intent to kill and a firearms violation.
Moore was initially set to be executed in November 2020, but that was deferred by the state Supreme Court after prison officials said they could not obtain lethal injection drugs.
The South Carolina Department of Corrections told CNN that it has not been in possession of a usable dose of lethal injection drugs since its last dose expired in 2013. This, it said, is due to the fact that companies will no longer sell execution drugs to the state until the law is changed to protect their identities from anti-death-penalty activists.
Moore’s attorneys asked the state Supreme Court to postpone his death while another court reviews litigation challenging the constitutionality of South Carolina’s execution methods, which also include the electric chair.
His attorneys also needed more time to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether Moore’s sentence was proportionate to his crime.
Moore’s lawyers have argued that prison officials aren’t trying hard enough to get lethal injection drugs and their client is being forced to choose between “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Moore would have been the first person put to death in South Carolina since 2011.
Moore himself elected to die by firing squad earlier in April. However, in a written statement (pdf), Moore said he only chose death by firing squad because he was required to make a choice, noting that, “I do not believe or concede that either the firing squad or electrocution is legal or constitutional.
“I do not believe the Department should be allowed to certify that a statutorily prescribed method, such as lethal injection, is unavailable without demonstrating a good faith effort to make it available,” Moore argued in court records.
“However, I more strongly oppose death by electrocution. Because the Department says I must choose between firing squad or electrocution or be executed by electrocution [sic] I will elect firing squad,” he continued. “I believe this election is forcing me to choose between two unconstitutional methods of execution, and I do not intend to waive any challenges to electrocution or firing squad by making an election,” he said.
South Carolina is one of four states in the United States that allow execution by firing squad, including Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Meanwhile, the death penalty is currently allowed in 27 states.
Prosecutors claimed during Moore’s 2001 trial that he entered the Spartanburg convenience store in 1999 looking for money to support his cocaine addiction, but that upon entering the store, he got into a dispute with Mahoney, who drew a pistol that Moore wrestled away from him.
Mahoney then pulled a second gun, prosecutors said, and a gunfight ensued, with Mahoney shooting Moore in the arm and Moore shooting Mahoney in the chest.
Prosecutors said Moore left a trail of blood through the store as he looked for cash, stepping twice over Mahoney.
Elsewhere on Wednesday, the South Carolina Supreme Court also set a May 13 execution date for Brad Sigmon, 64, who was convicted in 2002 of the double murder of his ex-girlfriend’s parents in Greenville County. Lawyers for Sigmon are also seeking to block his scheduled execution, citing similar arguments.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.