South Carolina court halts executions until the state's new firing squad option is finalized


Attorneys for Brad Keith Sigmon, who had been scheduled to be executed on Friday, successfully petitioned the state's high court to stay the execution due to South Carolina having only one method available, the electric chair.
A law passed in May sought to close a loophole that allowed for inmates on death row to indefinitely postpone their executions as long as drugs required for lethal injection were unavailable.
South Carolina does not have the drugs needed to perform lethal injections. Under the new law signed last month by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, inmates must now choose either electrocution or firing squad as their methods of execution.
The director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections said in an affidavit that as of June 3, the only method of execution available in the state is electrocution, according to the court's order.
"Lethal injection is unavailable due to circumstances outside of the control of the Department of Corrections and firing squad is currently unavailable due to the Department of Corrections having yet to complete its development and implementation of necessary protocols and policies," the director informed the court, per the order.
"Under these circumstances, in which electrocution is the only method of execution available, and due to the statutory right of inmates to elect the manner of their execution, we vacate the execution notice," the court said in the order.
"We further direct the Clerk of Court not to issue another execution notice until the state notifies the Court that the Department of Corrections, in addition to maintaining the availability of electrocution, has developed and implemented appropriate protocols and policies to carry out executions by firing squad," the order said.
In a statement to CNN, the state's Corrections Department said it had received the court's order halting the upcoming executions and was working on creating the policies and procedures.
"We are looking to other states for guidance through this process," the statement said. "We will notify the court when a firing squad becomes an option for executions."
The order halts scheduled executions Friday for Sigmon and June 25 for Freddie Owens. The executions would be the first carried out by the state since 2011.
South Carolina is the fourth state to allow executions by firing squad, joining Oklahoma, Mississippi and Utah.