(CMR) A South Carolina prisoner scheduled to be the first man executed in the state in more than a decade has decided to die by firing squad rather than in the electric chair.
Richard Bernard Moore (57) is scheduled for execution on April 29, more than 20 years after being sentenced to die for the 1999 killing of convenience store clerk James Mahoney in Spartanburg. If executed, he will be the first person put to death in the state since 2011 and the fourth in the country to die by firing squad in nearly 50 years.
He is also the first state prisoner to face the choice of execution methods after a law went into effect last year, making electrocution the default and giving inmates the option to meet three prison workers with rifles instead, AP reported.
South Carolina is one of eight states still to use the electric chair and one of four to allow a firing squad.
According to AP, Moore said he didn’t concede that either method was legal or constitutional, but he more strongly opposed death by electrocution and only chose the firing squad because he was required to select.
“I believe this election is forcing me to choose between two unconstitutional methods of execution, and I do not intend to waive any challenges to electrocution or firing squad by making an election,” Moore said in a statement.
The state’s new law was reportedly prompted by the decadelong break in executions due to an inability to procure the drugs needed to carry out lethal injections.
Moore’s execution date was chosen late last week, and he was given eight days to decide how he wanted to die.
AP reported that Moore’s attorneys had asked the state Supreme Court to delay his death while another court determines if either available method is cruel and unusual punishment.
The attorneys argue prisons officials are not trying hard enough to get the lethal injection drugs, forcing prisoners to choose between two more barbaric methods.
His lawyers are also asking the state Supreme Court to delay the execution so the U.S. Supreme Court can review whether his death sentence was a disproportionate punishment compared with similar crimes.
Moore is one of 35 men on South Carolina’s death row. The state last scheduled an execution for Moore in 2020, which was then delayed after prison officials couldn’t obtain lethal injection drugs.
In an affidavit last week, Corrections Department Director Bryan Stirling said the agency still couldn’t obtain the drugs because manufacturers and compounding pharmacies contacted by the state refused to help.
According to AP, Moore was arrested and charged after he reportedly entered the store looking for money to support his cocaine habit and got into a dispute with Mahoney, who drew a pistol that Moore wrestled away from him.
Mahoney pulled a second gun, and a gunfight ensued. Mahoney shot Moore in the arm, and Moore shot Mahoney in the chest. Prosecutors said Moore left a trail of blood through the store as he looked for cash, stepping twice over Mahoney. Moore claimed that he acted in self-defense after Mahoney drew the first gun.
Moore’s appeals lawyers had said that because Moore didn’t bring a gun into the store, he couldn’t have intended to kill someone when he walked in. As a result, they said he should not have received the death penalty.