Andrea Salcedo-Washington Post
April 19, 2022
Richard Bernard Moore has spent over 20 years on death row in South Carolina.
In less than two weeks, the 57-year-old man convicted of killing a store clerk in 1999 is scheduled to become the first person put to death in the state since 2011.
But he won’t die by lethal injection, one of three execution methods available in South Carolina.
Forced by the state to pick between the electric chair or a firing squad, Moore chose the latter, which would make him the fourth prisoner in the United States to die by that method since 1976 and the first in the state to select the firing squad.
Last year, South Carolina – one of 27 states where the death penalty remains legal – passed a law making electrocution the primary execution method unless an inmate chooses to die by a firing squad of three members. Lawmakers argued the measure was necessary to end the state’s moratorium on the death penalty caused by a lack of access to lethal injections and to give victims’ families some type of closure.
The law forces inmates to choose between lethal injection, electric chair or firing squad, but if the drugs aren’t available for an injection, the inmate must pick one of the two other options.
DEMONSTRATE EFFORT TO MAKE AVAILABLE
In court records filed Friday, Moore said he disagrees with even having to make the decision, arguing the methods presented to him are “unconstitutional.”
“I do not believe or concede that either the firing squad or electrocution is legal or constitutional,” Moore argued in court records. “I do not believe the Department [of Corrections] 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.”
He added: “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 I will elect firing squad.”
In an affidavit filed before the South Carolina Supreme Court, Bryan P. Stirling, director of the state’s Department of Corrections, certified that the only legal methods of execution available at the moment in the state are the electric chair and the firing squad.
Sterling argued that “despite diligent efforts,” the Department of Corrections “has been unable to obtain or acquire the necessary drugs for execution by lethal injection.”
REFUSED TO SELL TO DEPARTMENT
According to the affidavit, corrections officials have contacted manufacturers, “all of which have refused to sell the drugs to the Department.” It also states that the agency has reached out to several pharmacists regarding mixing the drugs for the department, but those efforts have also been unsuccessful.
The department, according to Stirling, has even tried to purchase the bulk components for the drugs and have them mixed, but without any success.
“As a result lethal injection is not available to the Department as a method of execution,” Stirling wrote.
Under South Carolina’s former law, death row inmates chose between lethal injection and the electric chair. But if an inmate chose lethal injection, the state could not force them to die by electrocution – a fact that has delayed at least two executions because the state hasn’t been able to obtain lethal injection drugs since about 2016, the State newspaper reported.
South Carolina, which has 35 inmates on death row, has executed 282 men and two women since 1912, when the use of the electric chair began there. In 1995, the state became the 25th to authorize lethal injections. The last death by electrocution in the state took place in 2008.
In 2001, Moore was sentenced to death after he was found guilty of killing convenience store clerk James Mahoney, 42, among other felonies, including assault with intent to kill, armed robbery and a firearms violation in Spartanburg, S.C.
He is scheduled to be executed by a firing squad of three members with rifles on April 29. His attorneys are still trying to block his execution, Law & Crime reported.