Governor Henry McMaster and the South Carolina Department of Corrections sent a joint statement Tuesday saying they have been able to secure pentobarbital, a drug that's normally used as a sedative but can also be used to caused death. McMaster and the Corrections Department sent a filing to the South Carolina Supreme Court informing justices of the news and asking for executions to resume.
"Justice has been delayed for too long in South Carolina," said Governor Henry McMaster in a statement. "This filing brings our state one step closer to being able to once again carry out the rule of law and bring grieving families and loved ones the closure they are rightfully owed.”
South Carolina has been unable to purchase the drugs necessary for lethal injection since the state's batch expired in 2013, and hasn't performed an execution overall since 2011. Officials have largely blamed the inability to replenish the supply on the lack of a so-called “shield law." Republican leaders have said pharmaceutical companies fear public pressure from activists and therefore will not sell to states that do not conceal their identities.
But this past year, the state pass a shield law. Since the, the corrections department said its made more than 1,300 contacts in search of the a supplier.
It's unknown when executions will restart. Four condemned inmates who have either run out or are nearly out of appeals sued the state after South Carolina added a firing squad to lethal injection and the electric chair.
Current South Carolina law requires the state to execute inmates in the electric chair unless they choose lethal injection or the firing squad. The inmates have said that dying by bullets to the heart or an electric shock that stops the heart is cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.
But with them now acquiring the drug, McMaster said they have satisfied concerns brought by the inmates about their method of execution. They're asking the courts to vacate the lawsuit and allow executions to continue.
Jace Woodrum, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, slammed the use of executions in the state.
“We know that a person’s likelihood of receiving a death penalty has less to do with the facts of the case than with the race and gender of the victim, the location of the offense, and the solicitor in office at the time of the offense," he wrote in a statement. "We know that Black people make up more than half of South Carolina’s death row despite representing only 26% of the state’s population. And we know that wrongful convictions and botched executions are inevitable outcomes of this system."
South Carolina has 34 inmates on its death row.