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The US state of South Carolina has scheduled what could be its first execution in nearly a decade, but prison officials say they have no lethal injection drugs to carry it out.

The State Supreme Court set the execution date of December 4 for Richard Bernard Moore, a 55-year-old man who has spent 19 years on death row after being convicted of killing a convenience store employee. in Spartanburg.

The convicted man’s lawyers seek to stay the execution, citing the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic for those involved in the execution and their witnesses.

Richard Bernard Moore has been on death row for 19 years for the murder of a convenience store employee. (South Carolina Department of Corrections)

They also say the department of corrections is withholding information about its methods of execution, preventing Moore from making an informed decision between dying by lethal injection or electrocution, the two options offered by state law.

“South Carolina is poised to carry out its first execution in nearly a decade under an unprecedented veil of secrecy amid a global pandemic,” read a statement from Justice 360, the nonprofit organization representing Moore.

“The South Carolina Department of Corrections refuses to release information on how it intends to carry out the execution, from the type and source of the lethal injection drugs to the status and tests of the electric chair, creating the risk of an execution. tortuous without surveillance. “

Although Moore’s attorneys have sued the corrections agency in federal court to force it to release such information, the department said in a September letter that it has been open about the lack of lethal injection drugs and that it cannot release details such as identities. of the execution team. members or drug supplies.

The agency also said it was updating any preventive measures for COVID-19 during an execution.

Under state law, Moore has up to 14 days before the execution date to choose between the two methods. If you don’t make up your mind, the default method is lethal injection.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections new death row at the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, South Carolina. (South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP)

But the last drugs from the corrections department expired in 2013, agency spokeswoman Christi Shain confirmed yesterday: “We have been actively looking for ways to obtain the drugs needed for the lethal injection, but we don’t have any.”

It’s a downgrade to 2017, when prison officials said they couldn’t execute Bobby Wayne Stone’s execution warrant without the appropriate medications.

At that time, however, Stone had not yet exhausted his appeals in court.

The state’s current injection protocol requires three medications: pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride.

As in other states, South Carolina has found it increasingly difficult to obtain the drugs, as opponents of the death penalty have lobbied manufacturers to stop providing them.

Previous attempts by the General Assembly to find alternatives and reschedule executions have stalled, although both Governor Henry McMaster and Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling have lobbied lawmakers to pass a law protecting identities. from drug manufacturers.

Lawmakers have also contemplated a bill that would force inmates to sit in the electric chair if the lethal injection is not available.

Lethal injection chamber. (AP Photo / Nate Jenkins)

Moore’s attorneys have indicated that he could also request clemency or another state appeal, according to court documents.

Moore is one of 37 people, all men, on South Carolina’s death row. He exhausted his federal appeals earlier this month when the United States Supreme Court refused to take his case.

Prosecutors have said that Moore killed James Mahoney in 1999 while robbing a store.

Last meals of death row prisoners

South Carolina’s last execution was in 2011, when Jeffrey Motts, sentenced to death for strangling a cellmate while serving a life sentence for another murder, dropped his appeals and opted for the death chamber.

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