It’s a downward trend that mirrors national patterns that are moving away from putting inmates to death. In a report that came out this month, the Death Penalty Information Center said that fewer and fewer people are being executed nationwide.
Last year, 39 inmates were executed in a total of nine states, according to the report. That represents a drop of 10 percent from a year earlier.
At the end of June 2005, there were 72 people awaiting execution in South Carolina. Since then, there have been fewer than a dozen, and several inmates have left death row after winning appeals that ended in their sentences being overturned.
Forty-six inmates are on South Carolina’s death row, all men who range in age from 30 to 69 years old, according to the state Department of Corrections.
South Carolina’s last execution came in May 2011, when 36-year-old Jeffrey Motts was put to death by injection for strangling his cellmate. Motts was already serving a life sentence for a 1995 double murder when, according to prosecutors, he bound Charles “Chuck” Martin’s arms and legs, tied him to the bottom bunk and choked him to death.
The first person executed in South Carolina in nearly two years, Motts was also the state’s first prisoner executed using a new combination of drugs. South Carolina switched to pentobarbital instead of sodium thiopental, a change made necessary after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration seized the state’s supply of sodium thiopental.
The agency took the drug away from several states because of concerns that officials broke the law by buying doses from England, which banned the drug’s export for executions.
South Carolina prosecutors had said they would pursue the death penalty in several cases last year. Some of those ended in plea deals that resulted in life sentences for the accused. In Beaufort County, a jury deliberated about two hours before sentencing Ernest Stewart Daise to life in prison for the 2009 shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend and her 4-year-old son.