Could the firing squad be a new death penalty in South Carolina?
Thu, 21 May 2015 02:45:00 GMT —
COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) --- Death row inmates, on average, spend 15 years there before they are executed. Much of that time is spent appealing their sentences.
"I talked to each person that I was responsible for executing. I went down on my own time and talked to them, made sure they were spiritually ready to go." Former State Corrections Director John Ozmint says in the eight years he was on the job, fifteen of his inmates were put to death. Two of those were done in the electric chair.
"I said, 'I gotta ask ya', and he said 'I know what you're gonna ask me, Mr. Ozmint'. And I said, 'well, why?' He said 'Two reasons. One, I deserve it. I killed two people. And two, I just want you all to know I can take it'."
South Carolina is one of 14 states where an inmate can choose how they are put to death. Inmates on death row can choose one of two methods to end their life: lethal injection and the electric chair: South Carolina being one of four states that still uses the chair.
Lethal injection is the primary execution method used in all 33 death penalty states. Death by firing squad- an execution method now legal in four states, could soon be an option in South Carolina.
"A firing squad would be the most humane way of executing someone's life." State Representative Joshua Putnam introduced a bill last month that would bring back the firing squad as a third option in South Carolina. He's been hammered by critics that say the method is inhumane.
"That would be ridiculous for the state of South Carolina to start with the firing squad," said State Representative Carl Anderson.
John Ozmint says no Supreme Court has ever found it to be cruel and unusual.
Representative Putnam is pushing the firing squad option because South Carolina's supply of lethal injection drugs has run dry. Supplies ran out in 2013. Multiple states are facing the same situation- essentially taking the death penalty off the table.
"My limited discussions with the Directors across the country is that there are no supplies left to be had," said Ozmint.
Representative Putnam says "If you elect lethal injection, you know you're not gonna be put to death."
Manufacturers are no longer selling it to states, and pharmaceutical companies are not required to sell states the necessary drugs.
"Where the drugs have been administered wrong in other states, and you have excrutiating pain for that individual that's sentenced to death." Putnam says if he had to choose a method for himself, he would choose death by firing squad.
"There's not really much of a way to mess up a firing squad."
Utah recently became the fourth state to make firing squads an execution option.
"These are heinous crimes. These are the most nasty, the most evil people of our society," said Putnam.
"I've talked to men as they've gone to their death who would look you in the eye and tell you 'I deserve the death penalty for what I did'," said Ozmint.
No one has been executed in the state of South Carolina since 2011. The last sentence was carried out by lethal injection. With that no longer being an option for the forseeable future, state lawmakers continue to search for other options. Ozmint says the State Supreme Court will not issue an execution warrant while there's still uncertainty about how it can be carried out. Meanwhile, death sentences are rapidly declining as the cost of capital punishment cases dramatically increases- costing the state millions for a sentence that may never happen.
"I don't wanna see those people- those horrible people out there that just get a pass because we can't figure out another solution."
It's not likely lawmakers will get to debate the death penalty issue before this legislative session ends, but House Representatives say it's an important discussion that needs to happen when the next session starts in January.