Due to a lack of access to lethal injection drugs, Richard Moore had to choose between the electric chair and being shot in the heart.
The South Carolina Execution Squad chair is visible in the back of the execution chamber. The covered chair is the electric chair of the state. (SC Department of Corrections)
South Carolina death row inmate Richard Moore is due to be executed by firing squad next week, the first American execution in this manner in more than a decade.
Firing Squad Returns to South Carolina: -
State prison officials were struggling to get their hands on the drugs used for the lethal injection. So in 2021, lawmakers passed a bill to replace the state method of execution with the electric chair, but inmates also have the option of choosing the firing squad if they prefer.
Moore, while acknowledging that he would rather not be executed at all, chose the firing squad. In a statement, Moore said both methods of killing him would be unconstitutional, but he finds the prospect of being electrocuted worse.
Moore, now 57, was sentenced to death 21 years ago after a 1999 Spartanburg County convenience store robbery went wrong. Moore was unarmed when he began his attempt to rob the store to get money to buy cocaine. The employee, James Mahoney, was the one with the gun. But they got into a fight when Mahoney fought back, and the gun went off, killing Mahoney. Moore then shot a bystander with Mahoney's gun, missed, and fled before surrendering to police.
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Moore did not contest his guilt. The jurors took only two hours of deliberation to convict him and one hour to sentence him to death. But his lawyer argued that the 2021 Enforcement Act could not be applied to him retroactively. Since state officials cannot obtain the proper lethal injection drugs, the end result of this argument would likely be that Moore would avoid execution if the judges agreed.
The case could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but that doesn't bode well for Moore. So far, most of the court's current judges have been reluctant to intervene in executions, with the exception of a March ruling that death row inmates have the right to have religious or spiritual advisers under hand and to pray for them when they are killed.
Moore is expected to die on April 29. If South Carolina follows through, Moore will be the fourth prisoner executed by firing squad since 1976, the year the Supreme Court allowed executions to resume after a 1972 halt. Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah are the only other states that allow firing squad as a method of execution.