A South Carolina death row inmate who killed a store worker in 1999 has chosen to die by firing squad in the first scheduled execution in the state since 2011.
Richard Bernard Moore, 57, is also the first state prisoner to face the choice of execution methods after a law came into effect last year making electrocution the default and giving inmates the option of confronting three prison workers with guns instead.
South Carolina is one of eight states to still use the electric chair and one of four to allow a firing squad, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. States that allow electrocution are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and South Carolina.
In a written statement, Moore said he does not concede that either method is legal or constitutional, but that he more strongly opposes death by electrocution and chose the platoon. of execution only because he had to make a choice.
“I believe this election forces me to choose between two unconstitutional methods of execution, and I do not intend to waive any challenges to electrocution or the firing squad by making an election,” he said. Moore said.
Moore spent more than two decades on death row after being convicted of the 1999 murder of convenience store clerk James Mahoney in Spartanburg.
If executed as scheduled on April 29, he would be the first person put to death in the state since 2011 and the fourth in the country to die by firing squad in nearly half a century.
This photo provided by the South Carolina Department of Corrections shows Richard Moore. Moore, slated for execution later this month, chose to die by firing squad rather than the electric chair
Pictured: The execution chamber of the Utah State Prison Draper firing squad
The state death chamber in Columbia, South Carolina, including the electric chair, right, and a firing squad chair, left
Moore wrote a statement, calling both methods “unconstitutional.” He didn’t have the option of lethal injection.
Only three executions in the United States have been carried out by firing squad since 1976, according to the center.
Moore would be the first since Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed in 2010 by a five-person firing squad in Utah.
South Carolina’s new law was prompted by the decade-long hiatus in executions, which corrections officials attribute to an inability to obtain the drugs needed to perform lethal injections, now opting for the chair of electrocution of 110 years from South Carolina.
Moore’s attorneys have asked the state Supreme Court to delay his death while another court determines whether either of the available methods is cruel and unusual punishment.
Lawyers argue that prison officials are not trying hard enough to obtain the lethal injection drugs, instead forcing prisoners to choose between two more barbaric methods.
A South Carolina prison has scheduled its first execution after a $53,600 death chamber came to light in Colombia, where Richard Bernard Moore, 57, convicted of murder in 1999, may be the first to be executed by firing squad
Moore was convicted of the murder in 2001 and now remains in custody at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, South Carolina (pictured) The new death chamber that allows for a firing squad is in Columbia, South Carolina
SOUTH CAROLINA DEATH PROTOCOL BY FIRING SQUAD
Three members of the firing squad will be behind the wall with guns facing the inmate through the opening.
The guns and the open gate will not be visible from the witness room. All three guns will be loaded with live ammunition.
Witnesses will see the profile of the inmate’s right side. The inmate will not directly face the witness room. The electric chair faces the witnesses directly.
The inmate will wear a uniform issued by the prison and will be escorted to the room.
The detainee will be given the opportunity to make a final statement.
The inmate will be tied to the chair and a hood will be placed over their head. A small aiming point will be placed over his heart by a member of the execution team.
After the director reads the execution order, the team will fire.
After the shooting, a doctor will examine the detainee. Once the inmate is pronounced dead, the curtain will be drawn and the witnesses escorted out.
His attorneys are also asking the state Supreme Court to postpone the execution so that the United States Supreme Court can determine whether his death sentence was a disproportionate sentence for similar crimes.
State judges denied a similar appeal last week.
The South Carolina Corrections Agency said last month it had finished developing protocols for firing squad executions and had completed $53,600 in renovations to Columbia’s death chamber, installing a metal chair with constraints that faces a wall with a rectangular opening at 15 feet.
In the case of an execution by firing squad, three volunteer prison officers will raise their guns to the condemned man’s heart.
Moore is one of 35 men on death row in South Carolina. The state last scheduled an execution for Moore in 2020, which was later delayed after prison officials said they could not obtain lethal injection drugs.
Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling reiterated in an affidavit last week that the agency still could not obtain the drugs because formula manufacturers and pharmacies contacted by the state refused to help.
State lawmakers in both houses debated whether the new method was the best way forward, despite it being passed in both houses.
“It’s not right,” state Rep. Justin Bamberg told The State. it is not constitutional. We don’t need to.
Senator Greg Hembree said deaths under the law would result in prosecution. He said, “We’re probably going to be sued in the Supreme Court of the United States.”
However, Governor Henry McMaster said the law will end the victim’s family.
“Now we can provide it,” he said.
During Moore’s 2001 trial, prosecutors said Moore entered the store looking for money to support his cocaine use and got into an argument with Mahoney, who pulled out a gun that Moore snatched from him.
Mahoney pulled out a second gun and a shootout ensued. Mahoney shot Moore in the arm and Moore shot Mahoney in the chest.
Prosecutors said Moore left a trail of blood in the store as he searched for cash, stepping over Mahoney twice.
At the time, Moore claimed he acted in self-defense after Mahoney pulled out the first gun.
Moore’s supporters argued that his crime did not rise to the level of a misdemeanor punishable by death. His appeal attorneys said that because Moore did not bring a gun into the store, he could not have intended to kill anyone when he entered.
The last person executed in South Carolina was Jeffrey Motts, who was on death row for strangling a cellmate while serving a life sentence for another murder.