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Execution History in South Carolina

Legal Background of Death Penalty in South Carolina
Death Row Inmate Housing
Years
Institution
Location in SC
1912 – January 1990
Central C.I. (CCI)
Columbia
January 1990 – April 12, 1997
Broad River C.I.
Columbia
April 12, 1997 – September 24, 2017
Lieber C.I.
Ridgeland
September 24, 2017 - July 11, 2019
Kirkland C.I.
Columbia
July 11, 2019 - present
Broad River C.I.
Columbia

Capital Punishment Facility
The original death house was built in 1912 and was located at the Central Correctional Institution.  In 1988 a new Capital Punishment Facility was constructed within the confines at the Broad River Correctional Institution.   This new facility was built to replace the old death house at CCI as the institution was slated for closure. Since 1990, all executions have been carried out at the Broad River Capital Punishment Facility. 

Execution Witnesses
By State statute witnesses are designated for executions according to the following guidelines:  There are three media witnesses, one print, one broadcast, and one representative from the dominant wire service (Associated Press in this area).  The family of the victim is allowed three witnesses.    If there is more than one victim, the Corrections' Director may reduce the number of family representatives to one representative for each victim family.  Further, if there are more than two victims, the Director may restrict the total number of victims' representatives present in accordance with the space limitation of the Capital Punishment Facility.  The law also allows for a minister of the gospel, the counsel for the inmate, the chief law enforcement officer (or designee) and the solicitor (or assistant solicitor) for the county where the offense occurred to be present.

Lethal Injection
Legislation signed into law on June 8, 1995, provided the option of lethal injection as a means of executing a condemned person.  South Carolina was the 25th state to authorize capital punishment by lethal injection.  In order to secure and utilize the controlled substances, the Department of Corrections had to be licensed/ certified by the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the State Board of Pharmacy.

Chemicals necessary to carry out lethal injection are handled, stored and disposed of in accordance with a strict protocol that limits the number of individuals who have access to the chemicals.  This protocol had to be approved by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The Electric Chair
The use of an electric chair in South Carolina began in August 1912. The electric chair is located in the death chamber of the Capital Punishment Facility. This is the same area that is used for lethal injection.

A person convicted of a capital crime and having imposed upon him the sentence of death shall suffer the penalty by electrocution or, at the election of the convicted person, by firing squad or lethal injection, if it is available at the time of election, under the direction of the Director of the Department of Corrections. The Director must provide written notice to the convicted person of his right to election and the available methods. The election for death by electrocution, firing squad, or lethal injection must be made in writing fourteen days before each execution date or it is waived. If the convicted person receives a stay of execution or the execution date has passed for any reason, then the election expires and must be renewed in writing fourteen days before a new execution date. If the convicted person waives the right of election, then the penalty must be administered by electrocution.

If execution by lethal injection under this section is determined and certified to be unavailable by the Director of the Department of Corrections or is held to be unconstitutional by an appellate court of competent jurisdiction, then the manner of inflicting a death sentence must be by electrocution, unless the convicted person elects death by firing squad.

Firing Squad
Legislation was signed into law May 14, 2021, creating the option of a firing squad as a means of executing a condemned person. The department is working to establish policy and procedures to govern this method. It is not available at this time.

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Executions in South Carolina
Since August 6, 1912, there have been 284 executions carried out by the State of South Carolina. Prior to this date, executions were by hanging in the individual counties. Of the 284, 75 were white and 209 were black. Also, 282 were men and two were women. The following table shows the frequency of executions.
Years
Number Executed
Location
1912-1920
47 (electrocution)
CCI
1921-1930
38 (electrocution)
CCI
1931-1940
68 (electrocution)
CCI
1941-1950
57 (electrocution)
CCI
1951-1960
24 (electrocution)
CCI
1961-1962
7 (electrocution)
CCI
1985-1986
2 (electrocution)
CCI
1990
1 (electrocution)
BRCI
1991
1 (electrocution)
BRCI
1995
1 (lethal injection)
BRCI
1996
5 (lethal injection)
1 (electrocution)
BRCI
1997
2 (lethal injection)
BRCI
1998
7 (lethal injection)
BRCI
1999
4 (lethal injection)
BRCI
2000
1 (lethal injection)
BRCI
2002
3 (lethal injection)
BRCI
2003
0
N/A
2004
3 (lethal injection)
1 (electrocution)
BRCI
2005
3 (lethal injection)
BRCI
2006
1 (lethal injection)
BRCI
2007
1 (lethal injection)
BRCI
2008
2 (lethal injection)
1 (electrocution)
BRCI
2009
2 (lethal injection)
BRCI
2010
0
N/A
2011
1 (lethal injection)
BRCI
Information as of May, 2021.
  • CCI is Central Correctional Institution, Columbia. (now closed)
  • BRCI is Broad River Correctional Institution, Columbia.
  • The youngest person executed was a 14-year-old black male.
    The oldest was a 66-year-old black man.
  • In 1988, the new Capital Punishment Facility (CPF) located in the Broad River Correctional Institution replaced the old death house which was located at the now closed Central Correctional Institution.
  • The execution held in 1990 was the first in the new CPF.
  • The first execution in South Carolina by lethal injection was carried out on August 18, 1995.
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For a number of years, South Carolina operated under a fairly typical death penalty statute which provided for the ultimate penalty for a number of crimes including, but not limited to, murder, rape and kidnapping. The statute predicated the imposition of the death penalty in those situations where the jury made a finding of guilt without an affirmative recommendation of mercy.

Beginning in 1962, there was a moratorium on executions nationally even though death penalty statutes remained in effect.

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Furman v. Georgia, held that the imposition of the death penalty was unconstitutional in those situations where either the court or the jury had practically unfettered discretion to impose the ultimate penalty.   The Furman case, in effect, declared most death penalty statutes, including that of South Carolina, in effect to be unconstitutional.

South Carolina joined 34 other states in modifying their death penalty statutes so as to provide under given circumstances that the death penalty would be imposed mandatorily. A number of people in South Carolina were sentenced under this statute, however, the judgment was not executed upon any prisoner and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in 1976, that while the death penalty was not per se unconstitutional, Greg v. Georgia, that each individual case should be considered upon its merit and that the imposition of the death penalty pursuant to a mandatory statutory scheme was unconstitutional as violative of the 8th Amendment. The court went on to say that the trier of fact, whether it be the court or a jury, should be allowed to take into consideration conditions in mitigation and aggravation prior to the imposition of the ultimate penalty. This, the court reasoned, would require a two phase hearing in which the jury made an initial determination of guilt or innocence and then the same jury reconvened to take additional testimony as to those conditions in mitigation and aggravation and made a determination as to the punishment, Woodson v. North Carolina (1976).

In light of the foregoing decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, the State Attorney General opined that the South Carolina mandatory death penalty for specified circumstances is clearly unconstitutional (75-86 Op. Atty., Gen. #4388, page 224). In response to this ruling of the Attorney General, the General Assembly, in Act 177, Acts in Joint Resolutions of 1977, reenacted our current death penalty statute, which has been codified at Section 16-3-20 Code of Laws of South Carolina, 1976. The current statute has been declared constitutional, both by the State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court, State v. Shaw (1979). It was under this statutory scheme that the death penalty was reimposed in South Carolina in January, 1985.

Prior to June 1995, Section 24-3-530 of the South Carolina Code of Laws provided that all persons receiving the death penalty shall suffer such penalty by electrocution. Subsequently, the General Assembly amended Section 24-3-530. Effective June 8, 1995, persons sentenced to death may elect to suffer such penalty by lethal injection. However, the election must be made in writing fourteen days before the execution date or it is waived. If the person waives the right of election and the sentence was imposed prior to 6/8/95, the penalty will be administered by electrocution. If the person waives the right of election and the penalty was imposed on or after 6/8/95, the penalty will be administered by lethal injection.

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