COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked two executions that had been set for this month under the state’s recently revised capital punishment law.
The high court halted the planned executions of inmates Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens.
The executions had been scheduled less than a month after the passage of a new law compelling the condemned to choose between electrocution or a firing squad if lethal injection drugs aren’t available. The statute is aimed at restarting executions after an involuntary 10-year pause that the state attributes to an inability to procure the drugs.
Prisons officials say they still can’t get ahold of lethal injection drugs and have yet to put together a firing squad, leaving the state’s 109-year-old electric chair as the only method of execution.
Attorneys for the two men had argued that death by electrocution is cruel and unusual, saying the new law moves the state toward less humane execution methods. They have also said the men have the right to die by lethal injection and the state hasn’t exhausted all methods to procure lethal injection drugs.
Lawyers for the state have maintained that prison officials are simply carrying out the law, and that the U.S. Supreme Court has never found electrocution to be unconstitutional.