COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — A South Carolina prisoner who is set to become the first man to be executed in the state in more than a decade has chosen to die by firing squad later this month rather than in the electric chair, as of court documents filed Friday.
Richard Bernard Moore, 57, is also the first state prisoner to face the choice of execution methods after legislation enacted last year made electrocution the default setting and gave inmates the option of three prison staffers with guns instead to deliver.
Moore has spent more than two decades on death row after being convicted of the 1999 killing of grocery store clerk James Mahoney in Spartanburg. If executed as scheduled on April 29, he would be the first person to be executed in the state since 2011 and the fourth in the country to be killed by firing squad in nearly half a century.
According to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, only three executions have been carried out by firing squad in the United States since 1976. Moore’s would be the first since Ronnie Lee Gardner ‘s 2010 execution by a five-man firing squad in Utah.
South Carolina is one of eight states that still uses the electric chair and one of four that allows a firing squad, the center said.
In a written statement, Moore said he did not concede that either method was legal or constitutional, but that he was more adamantly opposed to electrocution and only chose the firing squad because he had a choice to make.
“I believe this election compels me to choose between two unconstitutional methods of execution, and I have no intention of electing to waive an electrocution or firing squad challenge,” Moore said in the statement.
The state’s new law was prompted by a decades-long hiatus in executions, which correctional officials blame on an inability to obtain the drugs needed for lethal injections.
Moore’s attorneys have asked the state Supreme Court to do so delay his death while another court determines whether any of the available methods is cruel and unusual punishment. The lawyers argue that prison officials are not trying hard enough to get the deadly injectable drugs, but are forcing prisoners to choose between two more barbaric methods.
His attorneys are also asking the state Supreme Court to stay the execution so the US Supreme Court can consider whether his death sentence was a disproportionate sentence compared to similar crimes. The state judiciary denied a similar appeal last week.
The South Carolina Correctional Administration announced last month that it had completed the development of firing squad protocols and a $53,600 renovation of Columbia’s death chamber, installing a metal chair with shackles attached to a wall with a 4-inch rectangular opening. 6 meters away from each other. In the case of an execution by firing squad, three prison volunteers point their guns at the condemned prisoner’s heart.
Moore is one of 35 men on South Carolina’s death row. The state last scheduled an execution for Moore in 2020, which was then postponed after prison officials said they could not receive deadly injectable drugs.
Bryan Stirling, director of the Department of Corrections, said in an affidavit last week that the agency is still unable to procure the drugs because manufacturers and pharmacies contacted by the state have refused to help.
During Moore’s 2001 trial, prosecutors said Moore entered the store looking for money to support his cocaine addiction and got into an argument with Mahoney, who drew a pistol, which Moore wrestled from him have.
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 through the store when he was looking for cash and stepped over Mahoney twice.
At the time, Moore claimed he acted in self-defense after Mahoney pulled the first gun.
Moore’s supporters have argued that his crime does not amount to the death penalty. His appeals attorneys have said that because Moore did not bring a gun into the store, he could not have intended to kill anyone when he walked in.
The last person to be executed in South Carolina was Jeffrey Motts, who was on death row for strangling a cellmate while serving a life sentence for another murder.
Liu is a corps member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover undercover topics.
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