Two convicted murderers on death row in South Carolina got a new lease on life Wednesday when the state’s high court ruled their upcoming executions would be illegal until firing squads are available — an antiquated practice that was legalized last month.
The South Carolina Supreme Court halted the deaths after lawyers for the inmates argued their planned death by electrocution is cruel and unusual under the state’s revised capital punishment law, which allows prisoners to choose to be killed by a firing squad if lethal drugs aren’t available.
The state has not yet assembled a firing squad and prison officials have long been unable to secure drugs for a lethal injection, leaving a 109-year-old electric chair as the only method of execution.
Lawmakers amended the state’s execution policy last month in an effort to restart capital punishment after a 10 year pause that officials blamed on an inability to procure lethal drugs since the state’s supply ran out in 2013.
Brad Sigmon, 63, was scheduled to be put to death on Friday after being convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend’s parents with a baseball bat in 2001, according to The Greenville News.
Freddie Owens, 43, was scheduled to be executed on June 25 in connection with the murder of a convenience store clerk in 1997, the paper said.
South Carolina had 39 inmates on death row as of October, according to Death Penalty Information Center data.
Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah are the only other states where firing squads are approved. South Carolina is one of eight states that still use the electric chair.
With AP wires