South Carolina: proposed alternatives for lethal injection are unconstitutional

A judge in the U.S. state of South Carolina ruled Tuesday that the planned use of a firing squad and electric chair for executions was unconstitutional.

She classified the methods as cruel and unusual, vindicating four death row inmates who had sued the state. District Judge Jocelyn Newman’s decision will likely be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Because South Carolina is unable to provide the drugs needed for lethal injection, state lawmakers passed a law last year requiring death row inmates to choose between the electric chair and a firing squad, with electrocution the default solution if they do not choose.

Judge Newman sided with the inmates, writing in her opinion that the state had not proven that the execution methods would produce a painless death.

South Carolina, which carried out its last execution in 2011, is one of several states unable to provide the drugs needed for lethal injection.

Pharmaceutical companies that don’t want to be associated with products that end lives have made it difficult for states to obtain the drugs, and doubts remain about whether they will keep prisoners from suffering.