Republican South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced Tuesday that the state had acquired the necessary drugs for lethal injections and is ready to carry out executions after more than a decade of being unable to find pharmaceutical companies that would distribute the drugs.
Earlier this year, the state’s general assembly passed legislation enacting a Shield Statute, which protects “the identity of individuals or entities involved in the planning or execution of a death sentence”—including pharmaceutical companies that don’t want to be associated with life-ending drugs.
South Carolina hasn’t been able to carry out an execution—despite it being legal—because its batch of lethal injection drugs expired in 2013 and it has been unable to get a new batch.
The state made more than 1,300 contacts to drug manufacturers, suppliers, compounding pharmacies and more in an effort to secure the drugs needed for lethal injection before succeeding, according to a press release.
“This filing brings our state one step closer to being able to once again carry out the rule of law and bring grieving families and loved ones the closure they are rightfully owed,” McMaster said in the release.
34. That’s how many people are on death row in South Carolina, according to local news outlet The State.
In 2021, lawmakers passed a law adding the firing squad to the options of execution methods—which were electric chair or lethal injection at the time—and requiring electrocution as the default if they don’t choose. Prior to that, inmates had the choice between lethal injection and electrocution and were opting for lethal injection because it couldn’t be carried out, according to the Associated Press. But the 2021 law was challenged by death row inmates and a judge sided with them, determining the two methods available were unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment. The case went to the state Supreme Court, which sent it back down and asked for more information on why the Department of Corrections hadn’t obtained the drugs needed for lethal injections; it didn’t issue a ruling on whether the other methods were cruel and unusual punishment, according to The State. Since 2017, McMaster had been working to pass a shield law like the one passed this year, saying “it’s easy to see why (drug providers) would not want to be identified” as being involved with executions, arguing that a shield law could help them find providers.
Many states have struggled in recent years to obtain the drugs as pharmaceutical companies have stopped selling the drugs or blocked them from being sold for executions. Some states have passed laws like South Carolina’s that make a firing squad the backup option when lethal injection drugs aren’t available while they try to secure the drugs. South Carolina’s corrections director Bryan Stirling said in court that it’s tough to locate where to get the drugs because states that are able to are “not out there bragging about where they are getting their drugs from. The conversations we have at these meetings is, ‘yes we can do it, but I’m really not going to tell you where we get these drugs from,’” the Associated Press reported. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit analyzing death penalty policies nationwide, 28 states authorize the use of lethal injection.