South Carolina Schedules First Execution Since 2011 With Choice of Firing Squad

South Carolina Schedules First Execution Since 2011 With Choice of Firing Squad
Richard Bernard Moore. (South Carolina Department of Corrections)
Lorenz Duchamps

A prison in South Carolina is set to execute its first death row inmate in 11 years, now giving inmates the option to pick death by firing squad after corrections spent $53,600 on renovations.

The execution of Richard Bernard Moore, 57, was initially scheduled for November 2020, but his execution was deferred by the South Carolina Supreme Court after prison officials couldn’t obtain lethal injection drugs.

South Carolina has been unable to purchase lethal injection drugs for years now as U.S. pharmaceutical companies seek to limit how the product is used, which resulted in executions in many states nationwide being put on hold.

Moore had his execution rescheduled to April 29 by the state’s Supreme Court on Thursday, and he could become the state’s first death by firing squad. He is sentenced to death for fatally shooting convenience store clerk James Mahoney during an armed robbery in 1999.

During Moore’s 2001 trial, prosecutors said he entered the store looking for money to support his cocaine addiction and got into a dispute with Mahoney, who drew a pistol that Moore wrestled away from him.

Mahoney pulled a second gun, and a gunfight ensued. Mahoney shot Moore in the arm, and Moore shot Mahoney in the chest. Prosecutors said Moore left a trail of blood through the store as he looked for cash, stepping twice over Mahoney.

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

According to state law, death row inmates can choose between the electric chair and firing squad—or lethal injection if they are available in the state.
The South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) announced last month that officials completed renovating the capital punishment facility at Broad River Correctional Institution in Colombia to “include the capacity to perform an execution by firing squad,” the SCDC said in a news release.
South Carolina is one of four states in the United States that allow a firing squad. Other states that allow the method are Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The death penalty is authorized in 24 states, while three states have moratoriums in place.

State Sen. Dick Harpootlian, a Democrat, argued that death by firing squad presents “the least painful” execution method available.

“The death penalty is going to stay the law here for a while,” Harpootlian said. “If we’re going to have it, it ought to be humane.”

To date, there are 37 inmates on death row in the state. The last person executed in South Carolina was Jeffrey Motts, who died by lethal injection in May 2011. Motts was sentenced to death after murdering his cellmate while already serving a life sentence for fatally shooting two elderly people during a robbery.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.