Execution date set for inmate suing SC over firing squad law

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Supreme Court on Thursday set an execution date for one of two death row prisoners suing the state over a new law forcing inmates to choose between dying by firing squad or electric chair.

Brad Sigmon’s execution is scheduled for June 18, according to court documents.

Sigmon and another man on death row, Freddie Owens, both sued the state earlier this month, arguing that they can’t be electrocuted or shot since they were sentenced under a prior law that made lethal injection the default execution method.

Their attorneys are seeking to block upcoming executions as the lawsuit works its way through the courts.

The state Corrections Department has said the electric chair is ready to use, but no firing squad has yet been established, with officials researching how other states carry out executions with firing squads.

South Carolina is one of only nine states to still use the electric chair and the fourth to allow a firing squad. The other three states that allow a firing squad are Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The execution notice comes less than two weeks after Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law a bill aimed at restarting executions after an involuntary 10-year pause, when the state ran out of lethal injection drugs. That law would require inmates to pick either death by gunshot or electrocution if lethal injection is not an available option.

The court last scheduled Sigmon to die on Feb. 12. He declined to choose between lethal injection and electrocution at the time, and the execution was later stayed due to the lack of lethal injection drugs.

Sigmon, 63, was convicted in 2002 for the double murder of his ex-girlfriend’s parents in Greenville County. He is among 37 inmates, all men, currently on South Carolina’s death row.

South Carolina’s last execution took place in May 2011, and its batch of lethal injection drugs expired in 2013.

Liu is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.