2 Death Row Inmates See Executions Halted as South Carolina Works to Put Together Firing Squad

South Carolina inmates Brad Sigmon, 63, and Freddie Owens, 43, had their executions placed on hold as the state works to put together a firing squad.
South Carolina inmates Brad Sigmon, 63, and Freddie Owens, 43, had their executions placed on hold as the state works to put together a firing squad.(South Carolina Department of Corrections)

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that death row inmates must be able to choose their method of execution as lethal injection drugs are unavailable in the state. The state's current default execution method is by their 109-year-old electric chair.

Two death row inmates in South Carolina had their planned executions put on hold Wednesday until the state can put together a firing squad. This comes as the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that inmates have a statutory right “to elect the manner of their execution,” and must have a choice between death by electric chair or firing squad while lethal injection drugs remain unavailable in the state.

Brad Sigmon, 63, who was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend’s parents with a baseball bat, and 43-year-old Freddie Owens, who was convicted of murdering a convenience store clerk, were scheduled to be the first death row inmates to be executed in a decade, according to the Greenville News.

The two Greenville County inmates were scheduled to be executed in just days when the ruling came down. Sigmon’s execution was planned for Friday, and Owens’ would have been the following Friday.

Both had their executions scheduled less than a month after a new law was passed that makes the state’s 109-year-old electric chair the default method of carrying out the death penalty. The May 14 law also stated that death row inmates would also have the option to be executed by firing squad.

South Carolina is one of eight states that allow execution by electric chair, and one of four to allow execution by firing squad, according to nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

Previously, the default method of carrying out executions in South Carolina was by lethal injection, however, the state’s lethal injection supply expired in 2013, two years after the last execution occurred in the state, CBS News reported.

The state has been struggling to procure lethal injection drugs, and said it is the reason why there has been a 10-year pause on executions, NBC News reported.

The May 14 legislation was aimed at restarting executions in South Carolina, where 37 men are currently on death row.  

"The department is moving ahead with creating policies and procedures for a firing squad. We are looking to other states for guidance through this process. We will notify the court when a firing squad becomes an option for executions,” a spokeswoman for the South Carolina Department of Corrections said in a statement Wednesday.

Both inmates had previously chosen lethal injection to be their form of execution, their attorneys said, and called death by electric chair cruel and unusual, according to CBS News. Both inmates have also run out of appeals.

Attorneys for both Sigmon and Owens had no comment in regards to Wednesday's order, according to CBS News.

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