A man who is set to die either by firing squad or in the electric chair later this month is asking the South Carolina State Supreme Court to stay his execution until that judges can determine whether either method is cruel and unusual punishment.
Richard Bernard Moore is set to die on April 29 unless a court intervenes. He has until next Friday to choose between South Carolina’s electric chair, which has been used twice in the past 30 years, or being shot by three volunteers who are legal prison workers that the state finalized last month.
State law also permits lethal injection, but South Carolina has been unable to obtain the drugs to kill an inmate in recent years, prompting the state assembly to state in 2021 to pass a law including the firing squad so that executions can be done again.
South Carolina has not put an inmate to death in nearly 11 years and US states are increasingly waiving the death penalty.
Moore’s lawyers said judges must review South Carolina’s new firing squad rules to see if they violate a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment and also look into the electric chair with how executions have gone. changed in recent decades. A similar lawsuit filed by two other detainees is ongoing.
“The electric chair and firing squad are antiquated and barbaric methods of execution that virtually every US jurisdiction has left behind,” Moore’s attorney, Lindsey Vann, wrote in court documents filed Friday.
Vann is also asking the state Supreme Court to delay the execution so that the United States Supreme Court can determine whether Moore’s death sentence was a disproportionate sentence for similar crimes. State judges denied a similar appeal earlier this week.
Moore, 57, spent more than two decades on death row after being convicted in 2001 of the murder of convenience store clerk James Mahoney in Spartanburg.
Moore’s supporters said his crime did not rise to the level of a capital offense because he did not bring a gun into the store and did not have the intent to kill anyone until the store clerk pulls a gun on him.
Moore planned to rob the store to buy cocaine, and Mahoney pulled out a gun that Moore was able to recover, investigators said.
Mahoney pulled out a second gun and the men fired at each other. Mahoney shot Moore in the arm and Moore shot Mahoney in the chest. Prosecutors said Moore left a trail of blood in the store as he searched for cash, stepping over Mahoney twice.
Legislation passed last year makes the electric chair the state’s primary means of execution while giving prisoners the option of choosing death by firing squad or lethal injection, if those methods are available.
Moore’s lawyers also argue that the state has failed to prove that it is trying to find lethal injection drugs, instead forcing death row inmates to choose between two more barbaric methods.
The state completed a $53,600 overhaul of its death chamber last month to add a metal chair with restraints that faces a wall with a rectangular opening 15 feet away where three volunteers will each have live ammunition and shoot the convicted inmate, the corrections department said in a statement.
Bulletproof glass has been installed between the witnesses and the chair where the prisoner will be restrained as a worker places a hood over his head and a small target over his heart, prison officials said. Moore is one of 35 men on death row in South Carolina.