S.C. death penalty bill would reinstate the electric chair

COLUMBIA—After years of successfully advocating against legislation that allows use of the death penalty in South Carolina, a bill has made its way to the floor of the state Senate that will reinstate use of the electric chair.

Michael Acquilano, director of the South Carolina Catholic Conference, noted that this legislation would make the electric chair the primary means of execution for death row prisoners in South Carolina. It was advanced to Senate chambers with no public debate or commentary. If it is approved by the Senate it will advance to the S.C. House.

The bill, unlike current law, does not give inmates the option of choosing between lethal injection or the electric chair.

The legislation, which was proposed by State Senator Greg Hembree, would make the electric chair the state’s default method of execution. Hembree has said the bill would simply make it possible for the state to carry out the death penalty as it is laid out in state law.

Lethal injection has been the state’s primary means of execution since 1995. Since then, only three inmates have opted for the electric chair instead. However, no executions have been carried out in South Carolina since 2011 because the state is unable to obtain the drugs needed for lethal injection.

Similar legislation was proposed in 2018 but it did not make it out of the S.C. House of Representatives.

The current bill is scheduled to be considered on the Senate floor early next week. There are currently 37 people on death row in South Carolina.

Use of the electric chair has been ruled unconstitutional in numerous other states, including Georgia. Currently, South Carolina is one of only six states that still offer the electric chair as an option for execution.