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South Carolina struggles to execute death row inmates

A+photo+of+convicted+murderer+Dylann+Roof+in+court.
A photo of convicted murderer Dylann Roof in court.

A photo of convicted murderer Dylann Roof in court.

IBTimes.com

IBTimes.com

A photo of convicted murderer Dylann Roof in court.

Kristin Weaver, staff writer

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Though Americans remain divided on the issue of the death penalty, South Carolina faces the bigger issue of being able to execute inmates.

On January 11, Dylann Roof, convicted murderer and self-proclaimed white supremacist, was sentenced to death in South Carolina.  Roof is the first person in history to be sentenced to death for a hate-crime, according to PBS.

The death penalty is still legal in 31 states, according to deathpenaltyinfo.org. Though it is legal in more than half of the country, many do not support it.  

“I don’t support it,” said Alexa Vega, 20-year-old public relations major at Columbia College South Carolina. “Two wrongs don’t make a right. Killing someone isn’t okay, no matter what the circumstances are.”

Others disagree.

“I support the death penalty,” said Ashley Barber, 20-year-old elementary education major at Columbia College South Carolina. “Why pay taxes to keep murderers and rapists alive?”

Studies show that over time, more have grown to oppose the death penalty.  In 1995, 80 percent of those polled supported the death penalty, according to an annual Gallup poll. The same poll taken in 2016 showed that only 60 percent of those polled are in favor.

Though support for the death penalty and execution rates in the U.S. have dropped steadily since 1999, according to CNN, the death penalty is by no means going away.

Between 2011 and March 2017, 17 states executed 260 inmates, according to CNN. Texas, Florida and Georgia account for more than half of those executions. In South Carolina, only one inmate has been executed since 2011, according to deathpenaltyusa.org. Arkansas executed two men April 24, 2017.

Support or opposition for the death penalty is not the issue that South Carolina currently faces.  The problem the state faces is finding a way to execute inmates.

Lethal injection, the method most commonly used to execute those on death row, initially required a three-drug “cocktail.” “The first, (sodium thiopental or pentobarbital) puts the prisoner to sleep,” according to CNN. “The second (pancuronium bromide) brings on paralysis, and the final agent (potassium chloride) stops the heart.”

In 2011, Hospira, the manufacturer of sodium thiopental, stopped making the drug as concerns arose about whether this method of execution was humane. Because of this, it is becoming increasingly difficult for states to obtain lethal injection drugs. These states have had to look for other ways to execute inmates. In Tennessee, for example, when no lethal injection drugs are available, the state may use the electric chair.

As of March 3, there were 38 men on death row in South Carolina. There are no women currently on death row in this state. However, there is no way to execute the inmates. Lethal injection is the default method of execution in South Carolina, but the state’s supply of lethal injection drugs expired several years ago. Pharmaceutical companies have refused to sell the state any more.

A South Carolina Senate panel is currently in the process of finding alternatives for lethal injection, according to an article in The State Newspaper. Until an alternative is found, a death row inmate in South Carolina may choose to die via the electric chair, but the state cannot force this upon the convicted inmate.

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South Carolina struggles to execute death row inmates