COLUMBIA, S.C. — Injection or electrocution? For about 26 years, South Carolina has asked its death row inmates to pick how they die.
Most choose lethal injection.
A more modern method than the electric chair, lethal injection is often perceived as more humane and perhaps less painful. And it’s the default means of execution in South Carolina, as it is in all 27 states with the death penalty.
But that might not be the case moving forward for the Palmetto State.
Two bills moving through the state legislature, one of which is headed to the House chamber after passing 14-7 in committee on Tuesday, would make the electric chair South Carolina’s de-facto tool for capital punishment, The State reported.
Some say the change is necessary because the drugs used in lethal injections are so scarce the state has had to delay two scheduled executions.
But critics argue the electric chair is much too harsh, even for people convicted of heinous crimes. The highest courts in two states — Georgia and Nebraska — have ruled in the past two decades “that the use of the electric chair violates their state constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment,” according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
The last time South Carolina executed an inmate was in 2011, using lethal injection. The last electrocution was carried out in 2008, according to the S.C. Department of Corrections.
South Carolina is one of a small number of states that list the electric chair as way to execute people convicted of serious crimes. The seven others, all in the South, are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
All but two of those — Florida and Kentucky — say the electric chair can be considered as an alternative method if other methods, such as lethal injection, are unavailable or “impractical,” according to the center, a nonprofit that analyzes data and issues regarding capital punishment.