GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) - Greenville resident David Ahlmeyer says he’s not sure how he feels about a new law that would see the return of firing squads as a means to execute people on death row in the Palmetto State.
“It’s a harsh method visually, but maybe it’s just as quick and painless, or even quicker and more painless, than something like, say, lethal injection,“ he told FOX Carolina. “If they want to go that route, I guess they should be able to,” he added.
The decision by Governor Henry McMaster to sign a bill into law that would require death row inmates to choose between a firing squad and the electric chair in South Carolina – if lethal injections are not available – is one that has ignited a fierce debate.
But giving inmates a choice is something the Governor touted Monday as a positive aspect of the legislation, especially in light of the lack of lethal injection supplies in the state.
“We had to review the law, because the supply of those drugs was unavailable,“ McMaster’s said. “The death penalty, which has been around in South Carolina since the beginning, was not able to function because of the way our particular law was written,” he went on to say.
The state’s last execution was in 2011. According to the AP, South Carolina’s supply of lethal injection drugs also expired in 2013.
McMaster says that he is in favor of resuming executions of those accused of the worst crimes.
“It’s been fixed, so that justice may proceed,” he said of the state’s legal system under the new law.
But Greenville attorney William “Hank” Ehlies says that in his opinion, this legislation misses the mark on both moral and legal grounds.
“This current statute is dealing solely with methodology,“ Ehlies explained. “My feeling is that it is sidestepping and masking the true problem and debate: which is whether we should be executing at all,“ he said.
Ehlies has been involved in 18 different capital cases over the span of a 45-year career as an attorney, and is renowned nationwide for his decades of work advocating for those who have mental illnesses in the criminal justice system.
He argues that it is not the government’s business to execute people in a mature society, and that this legislation is merely a distraction from the big picture.
And then, he says, there’s the power issue.
“There is only one person that decides to seek death, and that’s the circuit solicitor in this state,“ Ehlies told FOX Carolina. “And he has no supervision. At all.“
“For the circuit solicitor alone to decide if there is enough political muster for him to rule on whether someone should face death is improper,” Ehlies added.
He also says that this lack of checks and balances inevitably biases the system.
“The imposition of death falls disproportionately upon the minorities, the mentally ill, the poor,“ he said.
Ehlies says he expects legal challenges to ensue from attorneys across the state now that this bill has been passed. He says this moment is a critical juncture in the state’s history.

Copyright 2021 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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