McMaster, corrections dept. appeal judge’s block of SC execution methods

Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 11:53 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2022 at 12:32 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster, the South Carolina Department of Corrections and its director have filed an appeal after a state judge ruled the state’s current methods of execution are unconstitutional.

The appeal, filed Wednesday, by McMaster and Corrections Department Director Bryan Stirling, seeks to overturn Judge Jocelyn Newman’s ruling on Sept. 6 that death by electric chair or by firing squad violates South Carolina’s Constitution.

Four inmates sued the state after state lawmakers passed a new law setting the electric chair as the default method of execution in 2021. That law applied to all inmates, even those who had been sentenced to death before the law took effect or any inmate who selects a method of execution the state could not carry out when their date of execution arrived.

In her ruling, Newman said the state “turned back the clock” and became the only state in the country where a death row inmate “may be forced into the electric chair if he refuses to elect how he will die.”

“In doing so,” she wrote, “the General Assembly ignored advances in scientific research and evolving standards of humanity and decency.”

South Carolina has not been able to carry out an execution by lethal injection since its supply of the necessary drugs expired in 2013. The state has not been able to secure additional drugs because pharmaceutical manufacturers have not been willing to supply them without a so-called shield law in place that would keep their companies’ names from being made public.

McMaster and Stirling have urged the General Assembly to pass such a law for several years, but lawmakers have failed to do so.

A state senator announced earlier this week, however, that he planned to introduce such a law.

Without either a shield law passed or Newman’s ruling overturned, South Carolina is unable to carry out an execution.

Read the full appeal below: