How does execution by firing squad work in South Carolina

Richard Moore set to die by method later this month for murder of convenience store worker

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Friday 15 April 2022 19:46 BST
South Carolina to bring back firing squad as death penalty option

Death by firing squad may sound like something from America’s pioneer days but it is set to make a dramatic comeback.

Richard Moore, 57, is set to die by rifle shot on 29 April, after spending two decades on death row in South Carolina for the murder of a convenience store worker.

When the Supreme Court allowed the re-introduction of the death penalty in 1976, ending a four year constitutional ban, the first execution was carried out by a firing squad.

Gary Gilmore, who had been convicted of a double murder, faced down the firing squad in Utah in 1977, telling his executioners “Let’s do it” before they shot him through the heart.

A firing squad was last used in the US in the 2010 execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner, who said he chose that method because there was no chance of a mistake being made.

Richard Moore was convicted of murdering a convenience store worker (AP)

South Carolina, which is one of only five states to allow firing squad executions, joining Utah, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Utah, has not executed an inmate for 10 years, claiming that it has not been able to buy the drugs needed for lethal injections.

Lawmakers in South Carolina changed the capital punishment statute last year to allow death by firing squad, as well as by electric chair and lethal injection.

The state’s correction agency says it has spent $53,600 to renovate the death chamber in Columbia to allow the firing squad method.

The chamber now has a chair in which an inmate who chooses the firing squad will sit in, which is in the corner of the room away form the electric chair.

Bullet proof glass has been installed between the witness room and the death chamber.

The metal chair, which has restraints, sits opposite a rectangular opening in the wall that is 15ft away.

Three volunteer firing squad members, all employed by the Department of Corrections, stand behind the wall with their rifles trained on the inmate through the opening.

The shooters will not be visible from the witness room and all three of the rifles will be loaded with live ammunition.

The inmate, who will wear a prison-issued uniform, will be brought into the chamber and given the chance to make a final statement.

They will then be strapped into the chair and an aim point will be placed over their heart by a member of the execution team.

When the warden has read the execution order the shooters will fire their weapons, and when it is over a doctor will examine the inmate.

After the inmate is declared dead the curtain will be drawn and the witnesses will leave.

The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to their Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty - with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage.

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