Death by Firing Squad Returns to South Carolina

South Carolina death row inmate Richard Moore is scheduled to be executed next week by firing squad, the first U.S. execution in that manner in more than a decade.

Prison officials in the state had struggled to obtain lethal injection drugs. So in 2021, lawmakers passed a bill to change the state’s method of execution to the electric chair—but inmates are also given the option of the firing squad if they would prefer it.

Moore admitted that he prefers not to be executed, but chose the firing squad. Moore stated in a statement that he believes both the firing squad and constitutional methods to kill him are unconstitutional, but that he considers the possibility of electrocution more dangerous.

Moore (now 57) was sentenced 21 years ago to death for a Spartanburg County convenience store robbery that went wrong in 1999. Moore, who was not armed at the time he tried to rob the shop in order to obtain money for cocaine purchase, did so without any weapons. James Mahoney (the clerk) was the one who carried a gun. After Mahoney attempted to defend himself, they became entangled in a fight, during which the gun went off and killed Mahoney. Moore fired at Mahoney with his gun and missed the target. He fled from the scene, before surrendering.

Moore was not adamant about his guilt. It took only two hours for jurors to convict Moore and just one hour for them to sentence him. His attorney argued that the retroactive application of 2021’s execution law to Moore is not possible. This argument is likely to result in Moore being spared execution if judges consent, since state officials are unable to obtain the lethal injection drugs.

Moore is not likely to be able to make the U.S. Supreme Court. The court’s majority of its current justices were reluctantTo intervene in executions thus far.

Moore will die April 29. Should South Carolina follow through, Moore will be the fourth prisoner executed by firing squad since 1976—the year that the Supreme Court allowed executions to resume following a halt in 1972. Only Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah allow firing squads to be used as an execution method.