Friday, May 7, 2021

Firing squads replacing lethal drugs as the weapons of choice in carrying out state murders in S.C.

“My dying words will always be, as it has been, ‘I am an innocent man,’” Lee told the BBC in an interview published on April 19, 2017 — the day before officials in Arkansas administered the lethal injection.

To their credit, some pharmaceutical companies, like Pfizer, have refused to sell death-penalty states the drugs they need to carry out lethal injections. I can't be sure if their refusal stems from fear of legal action against them. Perhaps there's simply greater profitability in flooding the market with prescription opioids than there is in rarely used death injections. I don't know. 

But the lack of availability of lethal drugs has become the rationale behind a bill approved this week by the South Carolina State House. It calls for firing squads to be used alongside execution and injection to kill death row prisoners. The lack of drugs, they say, is a key reason the state has not executed anyone in 10 years. 

The bill appears almost certain to become law in the next few days, and is being lauded by Republicans, including Gov. Henry McMaster. Passage would make South Carolina the fourth state — along with Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah — in which death by firing squad is an option for the condemned.

The firing squad measure was proposed by State Senator Richard A. Harpootlian, a Democrat and former prosecutor, who drafted the firing squad bill, claiming that it was more humane than the electric chair. 

“It’s an extraordinarily gruesome, horrendous process,” Harpootlian said of electrocution, “where they essentially catch on fire and don’t die immediately.”

Hard to argue that point. But calling death by firing squad "humane" only shows the depths to which a society and a culture can sink, especially when it is led by a gang of fascists and white supremacists, as is the case with South Carolina. 


Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders. -- Albert Camus

People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty. -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg


IN ARKANSAS... cries to end the death penalty have fallen on deaf ears. At any rate, they are far too late for Ledell Lee, a black man who was executed in 2017 for the murder of his Jacksonville neighbor, Debra Reese, in 1993, and who maintained his innocence up until his execution. Now recently-released evidence appears to confirm that another person probably committed the crime.

According to a report from the Innocence Project and ACLU, DNA from an unknown man who is not Ledell Lee was found on the handle of the murder weapon. That same DNA was also found on the bloody white shirt wrapped around the club. Five fingerprints taken from the crime scene were also tested. None belonged to Lee.

But that's the problem with the death penalty. There are no do-overs. 

P.S...At a news conference on Tuesday, cold-blooded, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson defended Lee’s execution. “It’s my duty to carry out the law,” he said, adding that “the fact is that the jury found him guilty based upon the information that they had.” 

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