November 23, 2020 – Richard Moore and his attorneys are not engaging in a last-minute attempt to “cheat the executioner.” For months, even before South Carolina scheduled an execution date, they began asking the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) to provide information about how it intends to carry out Moore’s execution. Moore needs this information to make an informed decision regarding which of the two methods of execution provided by South Carolina law – lethal injection or electrocution – he should select and determine if either method would subject him to an unconstitutional risk of severe pain (a torturous execution). So far, SCDC has refused to provide information about how it plans to carry out the execution.
Access to this information matters. Where other states have used execution drugs of unknown or dubious origin, there have been horrific “botched” executions that failed to bring about the inmate’s immediate death. For example, after Oklahoma refused to release information about the source and efficacy of the lethal drugs, Clayton Lockett suffered a horrendous execution attempt that was eventually halted due to his obvious extreme pain; however, less than an hour later, he died of a heart attack while still strapped to the gurney. And in Arizona, Joseph Wood gasped for air for nearly two hours before eventually dying after the state refused to provide information about the source of drugs and training of executioners. Death by electrocution has been found by other state courts to be cruel and unusual no matter how it is carried out due to numerous documented cases where inmates literally caught on fire, bled profusely from their heads and necks, and remained alive through the first several bursts of voltage before eventually being cooked to death. Moore simply requests information in an attempt to avoid being tortured to death in violation of his right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.
If SCDC, as it has reported to the media, is not in possession of the drugs necessary to carry out an execution, the State should not have an imminent execution, and the Governor should (like other governors have) grant a reprieve until it obtains the lethal drugs and provides notice to Moore about their origin and efficacy. Without possession of execution drugs SCDC’s plan for carrying out an execution cannot be adequately completed and subjected to meaningful scrutiny by Moore, his attorneys, or the courts. To carry out an execution under these circumstances creates an unnecessary risk of a gruesome execution with possibility of judicial oversight.
There is nothing nefarious about someone seeking information as to how the State intends to execute him and it is not legal gamesmanship to insist that the State carry out the sentence in a constitutional manner.