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Death row inmate in South Carolina chooses death by firing squad: what are the reasons?

A death row inmate is set to be executed later this month but attorneys for Richard Moore argue that the methods available are cruel and unusual.

A death row inmate is set to be executed later this month but attorneys for Richard Moore argue that the methods available are cruel and unusual.

As South Carolina prepares to execute a death row inmate for the first time in more than a decade there is a legal battle waging about the exact method of execution that is considered legal in the United States.

Richard Bernard Moore faces a death sentence for the 1999 murder of a convenience store clerk and is currently scheduled to be executed on 29 April. However as part of a legal dispute between the 57-year-old’s attorneys and the state, Moore has stated that he would rather be executed by firing squad than electric chair.

New law forces death row inmate to make a choice

Last year a new law went into effect which made electrocution the default method of execution, but also gave those facing a death sentence the choice to opt for a firing squad. This would consist of three prison workers with rifles.

Moore has been on death row for more than two decades but had not been executed due to a reported inability of the state’s corrections department to procure the drugs needed for death by lethal injection. It is thought that the 2021 rule change was introduced partly in response to that, but Moore is arguing that neither electrocution nor firing squad are constitutional.

Required to decide between the two methods he has elected to choose death by firing squad, but maintains that neither is legal and he continues to fight the state on the matter.

In a statement, Moore said: “I believe this election is forcing me to choose between two unconstitutional methods of execution, and I do not intend to waive any challenges to electrocution or firing squad by making an election.”

Death row attorneys seek late reprise for Moore

With less than two weeks until the scheduled execution, Moore’s attorneys have appealed to South Carolina’s state supreme court to issue an injunction while the matter is contested in another court.

The attorneys are arguing that the state has not made sufficient attempts to procure the drugs to carry out a lethal injection. They contend that this failure forces death row prisoners to choose between two more barbaric methods. The case will likely depend on whether the court finds that the punishment is cruel and unusual.

Eight states still use the electric chair as a form of execution, while only four allow the use of a firing squad. In the case of the firing squad, three rifles will be aimed at the prisoner’s heart in the hope of ensuring the swiftest and most pain-free death possible.


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