COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina can’t carry out its first execution in more than six years because the state doesn’t have the drugs needed for lethal injection, Gov. Henry McMaster said Monday.
The Department of Corrections last week received its first execution order in more than six years. State Supreme Court justices set a Dec. 1 execution date for Bobby Wayne Stone, a 52-year-old man on death row for killing a Sumter County sheriff’s deputy.
The state’s current injection protocol requires three drugs - pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The state’s supply of pentobarbital expired in 2013 and Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said Monday four years of trying to find an additional supply has failed because dug companies won’t sell if it is publicly known they are providing drugs for executions.
Stirling has asked lawmakers for years to pass a bill allowing the state to keep the providers of execution drugs secret. The failure of passing that law means the family of a police officer killed won’t see justice next month, the governor said.
“Here we are at a dead stop and we can’t do anything about it unless our Legislature passes the shield law,” McMaster said.
Other states have struggled with finding companies willing to sell the drugs, fearing harassment and other negative repercussions for being involved in the execution process.
Currently there are 39 inmates on South Carolina’s death row. Inmates can choose electrocution, although few do.
Prosecutors have cited the state’s lack of execution drugs in accepting life sentences in recent cases. Prosecutor Barry Barnette said in May he told the families of the seven people murdered by serial killer Todd Kohlhepp that he couldn’t guarantee Kohlhepp could be executed if he was convicted because South Carolina “doesn’t have a functioning death penalty.” Kohlhepp instead received seven life sentences without parole.
In April, Charleston-area solicitor Scarlett Wilson said she worked out a plea agreement for Dylann Roof resulting in a life sentence because, even if he’d been sentenced to death for killing nine African-Americans at a church, the state couldn’t have executed him.
At that point, Roof had already been sentenced to death in the federal system, and he’s currently on federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana.