Brad Sigmon (L) and Freddie Owens (R) of South Carolina are on death row.
A top court in South Carolina blocked two planned executions by electric chair this month, saying the inmates cannot be put to death until they have the choice of a firing squad.
The ruling was made under the state’s newly revised capital punishment law, which states that the condemned must choose between electrocution or firing squad if lethal injections are not available.
Brad Sigmon, who was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend’s parents with a baseball bat in 2002, was supposed to be killed on the state’s 109-year-old electric chair named “Old Sparky” on Friday, The Times reported.
Fellow death row inmate Freddie Owens’ electric chair execution was set for June 25. Owens was convicted of murdering a convenience store worker in 1997 and confessed to killing another prisoner at his sentencing.
South Carolina recently changed its capital punishment law to restart executions after an involuntary 10-year pause that the state attributed to an inability to obtain the lethal drugs to kill inmates.
It now forces death row inmates to choose between electrocution or firing squad if the drugs are unavailable.The electric chair
“The department is moving ahead with creating policies and procedures for a firing squad,” Chrysti Shain, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Corrections, said in a statement, according to the Guardian. “We are looking to other states for guidance through this process. We will notify the court when a firing squad becomes an option for executions,” Shain said.
Attorneys for both inmates had said that death by electrocution is cruel and that the men should have the right to die by lethal injection. But the state’s lawyers are saying prison officials are simply carrying out the law. Prison campaigners say Sigmon is terrified at the prospect of being electrocuted. Alli Sullivan, of Death Penalty Action, who recently spoke with him, said in a Facebook post: He “doesn’t know if [he] can get the horror out of [his] mind of being fried to death,” The Times reported.
South Carolina is among eight other states, including Mississippi and Oklahoma, that still use the electric chair in executions, according to The Death Penalty Information centre. Three other states allow death by firing squad. There are 37 prisoners currently awaiting the death penalty in South Carolina, which saw its last execution in 2011.