South Carolina may not have drugs for December execution

November 20, 2017 - 2:25 pm
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina has scheduled its first execution in more than six years. But it's unknown if the state has the drugs needed to carry out lethal injection.

The Department of Corrections last week received its first execution order in more than six years. State Supreme Court justices set a Dec. 1 execution date for Bobby Wayne Stone, a 52-year-old man on death row for killing a Sumter County sheriff's deputy.

State officials didn't immediately comment on whether they could execute Stone, but Gov. Henry McMaster planned a 3 p.m. news conference on the matter.

South Carolina primarily uses lethal injection and hasn't carried out an execution since 2011.

The state's current injection protocol requires three drugs - pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

South Carolina switched to pentobarbital instead of sodium thiopental, a change made necessary after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration cracked down on the use of the anesthetic and seized the state's sodium thiopental supply. The agency took the drug away from several states because of concerns that officials broke the law by buying doses from England, which banned the drug's export for executions.

But then South Carolina's supply of pentobarbital expired in 2013. States including South Carolina have struggled with finding companies willing to sell the drugs, fearing harassment and other negative repercussions for being involved in the execution process.

Other states have gone to using a single drug. Currently there are 39 inmates on South Carolina's death row. Inmates can choose electrocution, although few do.

Prosecutors have cited the state's lack of execution drugs in accepting life sentences in recent cases. Prosecutor Barry Barnette said in May he told the families of the seven people murdered by serial killer Todd Kohlhepp that he couldn't guarantee Kohlhepp could be executed if he was convicted because South Carolina "doesn't have a functioning death penalty." Kohlhepp instead received seven life sentences without parole.

In April, Charleston-area solicitor Scarlett Wilson said she worked out a plea agreement for Dylann Roof resulting in a life sentence because, even if he'd been sentenced to death for killing nine African-Americans at a church, the state couldn't have executed him.

At that point, Roof had already been sentenced to death in the federal system, and he's currently on federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana.

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