Execution set for 2nd SC inmate suing over death penalty law

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina Supreme Court on Tuesday issued an execution date for the second of two men on death row suing the state over a new law forcing inmates to choose between dying by firing squad or the electric chair.

Freddie Owens’ execution is scheduled for June 25, according to court documents.

Owens and another man on death row, Brad Sigmon, sued South Carolina earlier this month, arguing that they can’t be electrocuted or shot since they were sentenced under a prior law that made lethal injection the default execution method. Their attorneys are seeking to block upcoming executions as the lawsuit works its way through the courts.

The state Department of Corrections has previously said the electric chair is ready to use. But no firing squad has been established yet, with officials researching how other states carry out executions with firing squads.

The court set Sigmon’s execution date for June 18 last week. Sigmon’s attorneys have argued that the state Supreme Court should grant a reprieve because there is pending litigation and only one current method of execution possible, the electric chair.

The execution notice comes less than a month after Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law a bill aimed at restarting executions after an involuntary 10-year pause, when the state ran out of lethal injection drugs. That law would require inmates to pick either death by gunshot or electrocution if lethal injection is not an available option.

Both men have run out of traditional appeals in recent months, leading the court to schedule their execution dates earlier this year, before the passage of the new law. Those dates were delayed after the corrections agency acknowledged it could not procure lethal injection drugs to carry out the executions.

South Carolina is one of only nine states to still use the electric chair and the fourth to allow a firing squad. The other three states that allow a firing squad are Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Owens, 43, was first sentenced to death in 1999 for the murder two years earlier of a gas station employee, Irene Graves, during an armed robbery.

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