Forced to Choose, Inmate Opts for Firing Squad

But Richard Moore is still fighting to avoid execution in South Carolina this month
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 15, 2022 11:49 AM CDT
Forced to Choose, Inmate Opts for Firing Squad
This photo provided by the South Carolina Department of Corrections shows Richard Moore.   (South Carolina Dept. of Corrections via AP)

A South Carolina prisoner has decided to die by firing squad rather than in the electric chair later this month, according to court documents filed Friday. Richard Bernard Moore, 57, is 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 face three prison workers with rifles instead, per the AP. Moore has spent more than two decades on death row after being convicted of the 1999 killing of convenience store clerk James Mahoney in Spartanburg. If executed as scheduled on April 29, he would be the first person put to death in the state since 2011.

The new law was prompted by the decadelong break, which corrections officials attribute to an inability to procure the drugs needed to carry out lethal injections. In a written statement, Moore said he didn’t concede that either method was legal or constitutional, but that he more strongly opposed death by electrocution and only chose the firing squad because he was required to make a choice. “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 the statement.

Moore’s attorneys have 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 aren’t trying hard enough to get the lethal injection drugs, instead forcing prisoners to choose between two more barbaric methods. His lawyers are also asking the state Supreme Court to delay the execution so the US Supreme Court can review whether Moore’s death sentence was a disproportionate punishment compared with similar crimes. The state justices denied a similar appeal last week. (More execution stories.)

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