Today, the South Carolina Senate passed S. 200. This legislation would make the electric chair the default method of execution in South Carolina if the director of SCDC certifies lethal injection is not available. Under current law, a person facing execution may choose between lethal injection and electrocution as the method of execution, with lethal injection the default method if the person does not choose. In addition, S. 200 added the firing squad as a method of execution.
South Carolina’s death penalty is racist, arbitrary, and error-prone. Today our state Senate ignored these realities and moved South Carolina one step closer to resurrecting the electric chair as the state's default method of execution. It is unconscionable.
Proponents of this legislation argued that the state is unable to carry out death sentences because it cannot get access to lethal injection drugs, therefore the legislature must provide an alternative method of execution. To support this argument, you have to assume that South Carolina’s death penalty system is fair and accurate. News flash: It’s not.
South Carolina’s criminal justice system makes mistakes. Yet, capital punishment is irreversible. Since 1973, 174 people who were sentenced to death have been exonerated, including at least two in South Carolina. In addition, South Carolina courts have wrongly convicted at least nine people since 1989 alone, including five for murder. When talking about the power of the state to kill somebody, one mistake is unacceptable —and in South Carolina we have had multiple.
Capital punishment is applied arbitrarily in South Carolina. Capital punishment is not reserved for the “worst of the worst.” In reality, the likelihood of receiving a death sentence in South Carolina is not primarily based on the facts in your case, but rather on the race and gender of the victim, the location of the offense, and the Solicitor in office at the time of the offense. When the outcome of a capital case is driven by these arbitrary factors, equal justice under law, the cornerstone of our legal system, becomes a meaningless phrase.
The death penalty is modern-day lynching. Today in South Carolina, Black people make up more than half of South Carolina's death row despite being only 27 percent of the state's population. This staggering disparity becomes clear when you look at the role race plays in capital sentencing. People convicted of a capital offense are substantially more likely to receive a death sentence if the victim was white rather than Black. This disparity against Black people exists across all categories of capital sentencing. South Carolina’s capital punishment evolved from lynchings and racial terror, and it has failed to separate its modern capital punishment system from this racist history. It remains a racist system.
We urge the House to reject this legislation. It is unconscionable that legislators are focused on the method of execution when entire death penalty system is racist, arbitrary, and error-prone.
Take action today - tell your House member to oppose this legislation!