South Carolina Department of Corrections

Death Row / Capital Punishment


About Death Row

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Execution History in South Carolina

Legal Background of Death Penalty in South Carolina
Death Row
From 1912-1990, inmates sentenced to die for their crimes were housed on Death Row at Central Correctional Institution (CCI) in Columbia, South Carolina.  In January 1990, Death Row was relocated to Broad River Correctional Institution (BRCI) in Columbia.

On April 12, 1997, Death Row inmates were moved to Lieber Correctional Institution (LCI) near Ridgeville, South Carolina.  This move provided better management controls and ensured that the correctional staff who deal with those inmates on a daily basis were not the same individuals charged with the responsibility of carrying out the death warrant as ordered by the state.

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.  Currently, 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 can elect to be executed either by lethal injection or electrocution.   This election must be made in writing fourteen days before the execution date.   If the person waives the right of election and the crime was committed on or after June 8, 1995, then the penalty must be administered by lethal injection.  A person convicted of a capital crime and sentenced to death by electrocution prior to June 8, 1995, must be administered death by electrocution unless the person elects death by lethal injection in writing fourteen days before the execution date.  If execution by lethal injection is held to be unconstitutional by an appellate court of competent jurisdictions, the manner of inflicting a death sentence must be by electrocution.
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Executions in South Carolina
Since August 6, 1912, there have been 282 executions carried out by the State of South Carolina. Prior to this date, executions were by hanging in the individual counties. Of the 282, 74 were white and 208 were black. Also, 280 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 9, 2011.

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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