Breaking News
More () »

SC Senate panel advances bill that would resume executions in the state

South Carolina has gone nearly 12 years without an execution.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A bill that would shield the identities of the companies that dispense the drug cocktail used to execute people on death row will now be taken up by the full Senate. 

The state Senate Corrections and Penology Committee approved the proposal Thursday in a 12-5 vote.  

It comes as the State Supreme court weighs whether the electric chair or firing squad are legal execution methods. 

"To not be able to carry out that law in my opinion does a disservice to the judicial system, our citizens and the families of victims," said the bills lead sponsor Sen. Greg Hembree (R-Horry). 

Hembree said by promising drug companies protection, the Department of Corrections can restock the drugs that expired ten years ago. 

Fourteen states have carried out nearly 90 lethal injection executions in the past five years. Many have shield laws. Some do not. 

Five democrats including Sen. Karl Allen voted against the bill. 

"The director does not know if it is going to allow him to obtain the drug, so that’s a concern," said Allen. 

Opponents like the ACLU of South Carolina argue it's bad policy to keep government contracts from the public. 

"The 8th amendment states we need to evaluate state action according to the evolving standards of decency and this bill makes it impossible for us as a public as an informed citizenry to know what's happening," said a lobbyist for the ACLU of South Carolina Josh Malkin.

Hembree believes inmates on death row would want the option of lethal injection even if the high court rules the electric chair and firing squad are constitutional.  

"At this stage, opposing a shield law Will not prevent the sentence from being carried out. Opposing merely removes that option from the choices of the condemned," said Hembree. 

The debate in South Carolina adds to the near constant scrutiny over the death penalty around the country. A Tennessee report issued late last year found the state had failed to property test lethal injection drugs before their usage.

As part of its vote Thursday, the Senate Corrections and Penology Committee stripped the proposal of language that Sen. Greg Hembree of Horry said has still given pharmaceutical companies’ cold feet in other states with similar laws.

“The effort is to provide that very, very strong defense or shield for those persons on the execution team or providing those substances needed for lethal injection,” he said. 

About 30 inmates are currently on death row. 

In his State of the State address, Gov. Henry McMaster called on lawmakers to pass the legislation. 

Before You Leave, Check This Out