south carolina

The electric chair could make a comeback in South Carolina


January 10, 2018

The electric chair could make a comeback in South Carolina.

S.C. state senators Wednesday discussed making it easier for the state Corrections Department to carry out death sentences by electrocution – an option that hasn’t been used in nearly a decade.

The proposal is necessary, some senators say, because the state can’t get its hands on the chemicals necessary to carry out lethal injections.

Lawmakers on Wednesday also considered a proposed “shield law” to protect the identities of pharmaceutical companies that provide chemicals for lethal injections. Those companies currently won’t sell to South Carolina, fearing legal challenges, protests and bad publicity.

Neither proposal moved forward Wednesday, but a state Senate committee plans to discuss the ideas more this spring.

South Carolina last used the electric chair in June 2008 for the execution of James Earl Reed. The 49 year old was convicted in 1996 of the execution-style murder of his ex-girlfriend’s parents.

The state hasn’t executed any death row inmates since March 2011. In part, that is because the last of the state’s lethal injection chemicals expired in 2013.

The state can’t execute any of its current 36 death row inmates – all men – unless they ask to be killed in the electric chair, Corrections Department director Bryan Stirling told senators Wednesday.

None of the death row inmates have made that request, Stirling said.

In 2008, Reed, who fired his own defense attorney and unsuccessfully represented himself, was the first S.C. inmate in four years to choose electrocution over lethal injection.

Because it cannot be carried out, South Carolina’s death penalty is ineffective, senators were told Wednesday.

“We’ve had people on death row for over two decades now,” said Stirling, who took over the prisons system in 2013.

One death row inmate is scheduled to be executed later this month but is expected to get a postponement from a federal court so his appeal can be heard, Stirling told the Senate panel. If that delay isn’t granted, the state quickly is approaching an execution it can’t carry out.

“It’s possible that can happen,” Stirling said.

Don Zelenka, an attorney in the state Attorney General’s Office, said at least one S.C. prosecutor has opted not to pursue the death sentence because the Corrections Department can’t do the job.

A proposal by state Sen. William Timmons, R-Greenville, would change that. The former assistant solicitor’s bill would allow the Corrections Department to use the electric chair when lethal injection is unavailable.

State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, said he could support the proposal because it helps corrections officers do their jobs, even though he disagrees with the death penalty, which, critics say, is an ineffective deterrent more often used on minorities and the poor.

“This, to me, is a question about efficiency, not about the death penalty,” Hutto said.

Hutto and others were more skeptical of Timmons’ other proposal, the “shield law.”

Lindsey Vann, executive director of the Columbia-based Justice 360 nonprofit, which represents death-row inmates, called that proposal a “secrecy” law that would “create a state secret out of administering the death penalty.”

Shielding pharmaceutical companies’ identities would absolve them of accountability and create the potential for botched executions, Vann said. “If the government is going to exercise this power … they should do so in a transparent manner and with accountability to the citizens of this state.”

Stirling told senators the state’s electric chair, located at the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, still works.

South Carolina has executed 282 inmates since 1912, including 280 men and two women. Of those executed, 208 were black and 74 were white. The youngest inmate executed was 14; the oldest was 66.

Corrections officials began using lethal injection in August 1995, two months after state lawmakers OK’d the practice.

DEATH ROW AND SC

The dates

1995: S.C. legislators approve lethal injection to execute inmates on the state’s Death Row; however, those inmates can opt for electrocution

June 2008: Late S.C. inmate electrocuted

March 2011: Last S.C. inmate executed by lethal injection

The numbers

282: Inmates S.C. has executed since 1912

280: Men executed

2: Women executed

208: African Americans executed

74: Whites executed

66: Oldest inmate executed

14: Youngest inmate executed

South Carolina has no drugs left to execute Death Row cop killer


Novembre  29,  2017

A death row inmate is due to die in just two days on Friday 1 December – but the state of South Carolina has none of the drugs it needs to kill him.

Bobby Wayne Stone, now 52, was sentenced to death back in 1997 after he was convicted of murder and first degree burglary. On 26 February, 1996 Stone roamed the woods while drinking beer and shooting his guns – a shotgun and a pistol. At one point, he left off gunshots outside a woman’s home and then, when Sergeant Charles Kubala responded, shot three or four more times. Kubala, who was hit once in the neck and once in the ear, died at the scene.

After many years of legal wrangling, including appeals against his murder conviction and death sentence at the Supreme Court, Stone was finally given an execution date – Friday 1 December. But then he made a choice that may have saved his life.

South Carolina Schedules First Execution in more than Six Years


November 20,  2017

South Carolina has scheduled its first execution in more than six years.

The State Department of Corrections said Friday it had received an order from the South Carolina Supreme Court setting a December 1 execution date for 52-year-old Bobby Wayne Stone.

Stone has been on death row for 20 years in connection with the 1996 shooting death of a sheriff’s sergeant.

Federal Hate Crime Charges Likely in South Carolina Church Shooting


June 24, 2015

 WASHINGTON — The Justice Department will likely file federal hate crime charges against the man suspected of carrying out a massacre at a storied black church in South Carolina, federal law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
Dylann Roof, 21, already faces nine counts of murder and could receive the death penalty in state court. But there is widespread agreement among officials at the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation that the shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston was so horrific and racially motivated that the federal government was obligated to address it, law enforcement officials said.
F.B.I. analysts have also concluded “with a high degree of certainty” that Mr. Roof posted a racist manifesto online, which could be a key to any federal charges, a law enforcement official said. The website was registered in February under Mr. Roof’s name, but the name was made anonymous the following day.
In cases involving violations of both state and federal law, the Justice Department often refrains from bringing federal charges, particularly when suspects face long state prison sentences. But South Carolina does not have a hate crimes law, and federal investigators believe that a murder case alone would leave the racial component of the shooting unaddressed.
The site also showed 60 photographs, including one of Mr. Roof holding a Confederate flag in one hand and a handgun in the other. Other photos of Mr. Roof appeared to have been taken at Confederate heritage sites and slavery museums.
Analysts at the F.B.I. laboratory in Quantico, Va., are also analyzing a computer and phone that Mr. Roof had used, officials said. The agents and analysts are piecing together Mr. Roof’s communications and uncovering any information that may have been deleted.
When federal and state prosecutors each bring charges, they typically coordinate their cases so one does not undermine the other. The death penalty could be a factor. South Carolina’s murder law carries a possible death sentence, while a violation of the federal hate crime law carries up to life in prison. Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, has called for Mr. Roof to face the death penalty.

SOUTH CAROLINA – Ricky Blackwell sentenced to death


march 17, 2014

SPARTANBURG, S.C. —After hours of deliberation a Spartanburg County jury issued the death sentence for Ricky Blackwell.

A short time later the judge confirmed the death sentence for the murder of 8-year-old Brooke Center.

The judge said the sentence is to be carried out on June 14, 2014.

Blackwell was also found guilty of kidnapping Brooke Center, he was sentenced to 30 years in jail on that charge.

Prosecutors called the fatal shooting revenge because Blackwell’s now ex-wife was dating the girl’s father.

The jury’s options were life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.

The seven men and five women seated on the jury found him guilty as charged in just 20 minutes of deliberations earlier in the week.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, the jurors began deliberating Blackwell’s punishment, they returned the sentence just after 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

Before they were released to discuss a possible sentence, a judge told them they must decide whether Blackwell suffers from an intellectual disability, or as stated in court, a mental retardation.

If jurors had found him not to be mentally competent at the time of the crime, they would not have been able to proceed with the death penalty, according to South Carolina law.

The judge told the jurors to come to a death sentence, they had find aggravated circumstances were present when Blackwell committed the crime.  The judge said the two things they could consider aggravators in this case were the age of the victim and the fact it happened during a kidnapping.

The death sentence recommendation had to be a unanimous vote.

Closing arguments began in this sentencing phase began Sunday at 11 a.m., when Blackwell asserted his right to remain silent when the judge asked him if he’d like to make remarks.

Blackwell did not address the jury at any point during the case.

“What a wonderful individual Brooke was,” said solicitor Barry Barnette in his closing arguments.

He told jurors to look at the case closely.

Barnett expressed his disgust with the defense’s assertion that Blackwell suffers from an intellectual disability.

“I got mad,” said Barnette.  “You look at the evidence and no other doctor has ever diagnosed him as such until they paid a doctor from North Carolina to come down and testify that he was. He is not mentally retarded. It’s an insult to people who have this disability. They only did it to spare his life.”

Furthermore, Barnette said Blackwell was a certified employee of several companies where his mental competence would have been questioned.

Barnette got on his knees to illustrate how tall Brooke was and said Blackwell “meant to kill Brooke Center.”

The solicitor said Brooke was shot four times – once in the leg, neck, head and a final shot in her back after she fell to the ground.

“It was no accident,” Barnette shouted in the courtroom.

The solicitor put a Nelson Mandela quote on a projector for the jury to see – which read, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.”

Barnette then showed a picture of a memorial already set up in Brooke’s honor in her community.

“This will affect people for the rest of their lives,” said Barnette.

Barnett began to tear up as he showed the final images to the jury.  It was a side by side comparison of Brooke playing baseball and her lying dead by a swing set after the shooting.

Several jurors were observed wiping tears from their eyes.

The defense presented its closing arguments after a short recess.

Blackwell’s attorney, Bill McGuire, opened up saying he wished photos like they’d just seen not be shown in court.

“He is 55 years old, in poor health and will not last long, but I’m asking you to send him to prison,” McGuire told the jury.  “If the death penalty can do some good, if it could bring Brooke Center back, I’d be the first to say do it, but it won’t.”

McGuire said the jury should let Brooke’s legacy be celebrated by the memorials and ceremonies in her honor instead of sentencing Blackwell to death.

“Imagine if a sign said, “In honor of Brooke we killed a man,” said McGuire.

The public defender portrayed Blackwell as a distraught individual whose marriage was ending.   McGuire said Blackwell was suicidal and tried to kill himself by overdosing on prescription pills before the deadly shooting.

“(If) he’s not a danger to us, then don’t use lethal force,” said McGuire.  “Ricky is mentally retarded. He scored in the bottom 2 percent on IQ tests. Those were reliable tests,” said McGuire.

McGuire stated a person with an intellectual disability like Blackwell could learn skills to perform the jobs he held in the past, referring to the prosecution’s attack on why he was not diagnosed with a disability before this point.

“He has a relationship with God,” said McGuire.  “Everybody he has touched in his life says he is caring, gentle, a good man. See him through the eyes of the people who knew him.”

“He is sorry for what he has done,” said McGuire. “Do you, as a human being, have to kill him? The answer is no. You don’t have to kill Ricky Blackwell.’”

Man Formerly on SC’s Death Row Suing Prosecutors


COLUMBIA, S.C.  – A man condemned for decades to South Carolina’s death row says prosecutors wrongfully pursued a case against him in a widow’s 1982 death.

Edward Lee Elmore filed a federal lawsuit last month accusing prosecutors of planting evidence that implicated him and conspiring to convict him.

Elmore was sentenced to death in the slaying of a 75-year-old widow for whom he had done odd jobs.

That verdict was overturned on appeal three times. Elmore left death row in 2010 when his attorneys argued he was mentally disabled and had a low IQ.

In 2012, he left prison altogether after entering an Alford plea to murder. Prosecutors agreed his punishment should be the 11,000 days Elmore spent incarcerated.

Court papers listed no attorneys for the prosecutors and officers named in Elmore’s lawsuit.

(The Associated Press)

ALABAMA – Trial begins on isolation of HIV-positive inmates


September 26, 2012 http://www.corrections.com

MONTGOMERY, ALA. — Alabama prisons continue to isolate inmates who have tested positive for HIV even though the virus is no longer the death sentence it once was considered, an attorney for HIV-positive prison inmates said Monday.

ACLU attorney Margaret Winter asked U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson Monday to end a longstanding Alabama prisons policy of isolating inmates who have tested positive for HIV.

Thompson is hearing testimony in a trial of a lawsuit brought by HIV-positive inmates challenging the Alabama prisons policy of keeping HIV-positive inmates separate from the remainder of the prison population. Alabama and South Carolina are the only states that continue to do so.

Attorney Bill Lunsford, representing Alabama prisons, said the HIV-positive prisoners are kept together in dormitories at Limestone Correctional Facility in north Alabama and at Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka. But he said the inmates can participate in most of the programs available to other inmates.

Lunsford and Winter made the remarks in opening statements in a trial of a federal lawsuit challenging the Alabama prisons’ HIV policy. The trial is expected to last about a month.

The ACLU claims the policy is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Winter said in her opening statement that the policy keeps HIV-positive inmates from participating in some programs to help in their rehabilitation.

But Lunsford said the only thing the HIV-positive inmates are prohibited from doing is working in the prison kitchen. Winter, however, said the HIV-positive inmates often can’t get the same work-release jobs as other inmates, particularly food service jobs.

The trial’s first witness was Frederick Altice of Yale University, who described himself as an expert in the incarceration of HIV-positive inmates.

He described the prison system’s policy of isolating HIV-positive inmates as a mistake, particularly for inmates who are just learning that they are HIV-positive. He said some people still have the same reaction to HIV they had in past years, when it was considered more deadly.

“They think, ‘Am I never going to be able to see my children?’ or ‘Am I going to die?'” Altice said. “Being alone is not a good place for them to be.”

Lunsford repeatedly questioned Altice’s credentials, particularly when it comes to understanding how the Alabama prison policy works.

The trial continues Tuesday morning.

SOUTH CAROLINA – Rate of death sentences, executions slows in state


may 7, 2012 sourcehttp://www.greenvilleonline.com

COLUMBIA — A judge in Lexington County is considering doing something that hasn’t been done in South Carolina in over 14 months — send a convicted murderer to death row.

If Kenneth Lynch is sentenced to death for killing a 7-year-old girl and her 53-year-old grandmother, he would be the 52nd inmate on South Carolina’s death row, boosting the population up from its nearly two decade-low.

The pace of executions has slowed considerably too. South Carolina has executed just one inmate in past three years. There were 72 people awaiting execution in the state at the end of June 2005, and just 10 executions in the state since then. Prosecutors in South Carolina sent no one to death row in 2011, the first time that happened since at least 1994.

It’s not that South Carolina has lost its willingness to put people to death. More than a dozen death penalty bills were filed during this session of the General Assembly, many of them seeking to add crimes to the list of aggravating factors prosecutors must prove to get a death sentence. The state also changed the way it conducts lethal injections because of a shortage of one of the drugs it had been using.

As states like Connecticut outlaw capital punishment, and neighbor North Carolina discusses whether it is applied fairly, South Carolina seems content with its laws as written.

Instead, prosecutors worry that complex death penalty trials are too expensive in all but the most extreme cases. South Carolina abolished parole for life sentences in 1995, making “life means life” an attractive option for juries and prosecutors who can use the chance of the death penalty to leverage a guilty plea.

There may be no better way to illustrate how seeking the death penalty has changed in South Carolina in the past two decades than the case of Shaquan Duley, who is serving 35 years in prison after pleading guilty in March to suffocating her 2-year-old and 18-month-old sons, putting them into a car and rolling them into a Orangeburg County river to try to make it look like an accidental drowning

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South Carolina – Inmate Released After Nearly 30 Years on Death Row – Edward Lee Elmore


Edward Lee Elmore was released from prison in South Carolina on March 2 after agreeing to a plea arrangement in which he maintained his innocence but agreed the state could re-convict him of murder in a new trial.  He had been on death row for nearly 30 years after being convicted and sentenced to death in 1982 for the sexual assault and murder of an elderly woman in Greenwood, South Carolina. The state’s case was based on evidence gathered from a questionable investigation and on testimony with glaring discrepancies. Elmore’s appellate lawyers discovered evidence pointing to Elmore’s possible innocence that prosecutors had withheld. Originally, state officials repeatedly claimed the evidence had been lost. The evidence included a hair sample collected from the crime scene. After being tested for DNA, the evidence suggested an unknown Caucasian man may have been the killer.  In February 2010, Elmore was found to have intellectual disabilities and thus was ineligible for execution; he was taken off death row.  In November 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit granted him a new trial because of the prosecutorial misconduct in handling the evidence. The court found there was  “persuasive evidence that the agents were outright dishonest,” and there was “further evidence of police ineptitude and deceit.”

Raymond Bonner, a former New York Times reporter who wrote a book about the case (“Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong”), said Elmore’s journey through the justice system “stands out because it raises nearly all the issues that shape debate about capital punishment: race, mental retardation, a jailhouse informant, DNA testing, bad defense lawyers, prosecutorial misconduct and a strong claim of innocence.”  He noted, “Once a person has been convicted, even on unimaginably shaky grounds, an almost inexorable process — one that usually ends in execution — is set in motion. On appeal, gone is the presumption of innocence; the presumption is that the defendant had a fair trial. Not even overwhelming evidence that the defendant is innocent is necessarily enough to get a new trial.”

(R. Bonner, “When Innocence Isn’t Enough,” New York Times, March 2, 2012).  See Innocence and Intellectual Disabilities.