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South Carolina plans execution of death row inmate, chooses electric chair or firing squad


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The South Carolina Supreme Court has allowed a man to be executed to death for more than two decades after the corrections department said last month it had finished renovating the death chamber to prepare for executions by a firing squad.

The state Supreme Court clerk has set April 29 as the execution date for Richard Bernard, 57, who was convicted in 2001 of murdering a convenience store clerk in 1999.

Richard Bernard Moore has been on death row for over two decades.
(Justice 360 ​​via AP)

By law, Moore will be asked to choose his method of execution — either electric chair or firing squad — 2 weeks before the day of the execution, according to the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC).

Last year, state lawmakers amended capital punishment law to circumvent a decade-long hiatus in executions attributed to the SCDC’s inability to procure lethal injection drugs.

The new law made the electric chair the state’s primary means of execution while giving prisoners the ability to choose their preferred method of execution – if those methods are available.

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The SCDC informed state officials last month that it had completed developing protocols for firing squad executions and completed $53,600 in renovations to the death chamber at Columbia’s Capital Punishment Facility. .

South Carolina is one of eight states to still use the electric chair and one of four to allow a firing squad, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

South Carolina plans execution of death row inmate, chooses electric chair or firing squad

A photo of Richard Bernard Moore.
(South Carolina Department of Corrections)

Moore exhausted his federal appeals in 2020, and the state Supreme Court denied another appeal this week. Lindsey Vann, Moore’s attorney, said Thursday she would ask the court to stay the execution.

Last month, Vann said South Carolina would join China, Iran and North Korea if executions were allowed to be carried out by firing squad.

“By adopting firing squad, South Carolina has become an exception, returning to a method of execution previously abandoned by most jurisdictions as barbaric,” she said.

Moore was sentenced to death in 2001 after being found guilty of murder, assault with intent to kill, armed robbery and firearms violations.

Prosecutors said Moore walked into a Spartanburg County convenience store in September 1999 looking for money to support his cocaine needs and got into an argument with the store clerk, who pulled out a gun that Moore gave him. had ripped off.

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The clerk, James Mahoney, pulled out a second gun and a shootout ensued. 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.

At the time, Moore claimed he acted in self-defense after Mahoney pulled out the first gun.

Moore’s supporters argued that his crime did not rise to the level of heinous in other death penalty cases in the state. His appeal attorneys said that because Moore did not bring a gun into the store, he could not have intended to kill anyone when he entered.

South Carolina plans execution of death row inmate, chooses electric chair or firing squad

This file photo from September 21, 2010 shows the interior of the lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California.
(AP)

The last execution in South Carolina was in 2011 and his batch of lethal injection drugs expired two years later. There are 35 men on death row in South Carolina.

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Support for the death penalty has dropped significantly. Last year, the states and federal government carried out 11 executions – the fewest since 1988.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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