Trump’s Killing Spree: The Inside Story of His Race to Execute Every Prisoner He Could

Before 2020, there had been three federal executions in 60 years. Then Trump put 13 people to death in six months IN THE FINAL moments of Brandon Bernard’s life, before he was executed by lethal injection at a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Dec. 10, 2020, President Donald Trump picked up the phone to entertain a final plea for mercy on Bernard’s behalf. The call was not with Bernard’s family or his attorneys. Nor was it with representatives from the Justice Department’s Pardon Attorney office, who had recommended just days earlier that Trump spare Bernard’s life.

South Carolina | Senators advance bill to resume executions by ‘shielding’ drug suppliers

Legislation that would enable executions to resume by lethal injection is advancing in the S.C. Senate as lawmakers await a ruling on whether death by firing squad or electrocution is constitutional.

The so-called “shield law” sent Jan. 19 to the full Senate Corrections Committee would keep secret how the state prison agency secures the drugs needed to execute death row inmates by injection.

State law already protects the identities of employees carrying out executions. The bill would extend the secrecy shield to those making, compounding and/or selling the drugs used in the lethal cocktail.

The assumption is that promising companies and pharmacists a buffer from public opposition to the death penalty will help the Department of Corrections restock supplies that expired a decade ago.

Corrections Director Bryan Stirling cautioned senators that the secrecy shield still does not guarantee he’ll be able to buy the drugs. But all efforts to secure the drugs without one have failed, he said.

“Everybody said ‘no, we can’t sell you the drugs. You don’t have a shield law,’” he said about failed attempts since 2013.

In other states with such a law, some “have been able to get the drugs. Some states have not,” he said. “I think it comes down to, do you have a compounding pharmacy willing to sell you the drugs? In some states they do, some states they don’t. Right now, we have to tell them, ‘We can’t protect you.’”

There are 35 men on South Carolina’s list of condemned inmates: 18 White and 17 Black. The last execution was in 2011 by lethal injection.

Opponents of the bill said it’s bad policy to exempt government contracts of any kind from public scrutiny.

Allie Menegakis, founder of South Carolina for Criminal Justice Reform, argued it’s a slippery slope that leads to corruption.

Asked how this particular exemption from public records laws could cause malfeasance, she said, “I have no idea what could potentially happen, and the problem is no one has any idea. We’re talking about how someone’s actually killed by the government. Where this drug comes from, whether it’s safe, you and everyone else here will have no access.”

The Rev. Hillary Taylor, director of South Carolinians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, called it a “bad bill for business and economic freedom,” citing pharmaceutical companies’ statements of not wanting their drugs to be used to kill people.

“It also threatens public health,” said Taylor, who’s also a hospital chaplain. “If these drugs were to get out to the public, it would create an opioid crisis.”

South Carolina’s inability to execute by lethal injection caused legislators two years ago to pass a law that reverted to electrocution as the default method and added the option of death by firing squad. The state Supreme Court temporarily put two executions on hold until the Corrections Department made the firing squad a real option.

Attorneys for those 2 inmates and 2 others who have exhausted their normal appeals then challenged the constitutionality of death by electrocution and the firing squad, arguing both violate bans against “cruel and unusual punishment.” A Richland County judge agreed in September, halting all executions.

The state Supreme Court heard arguments on the appeal earlier this month.

Sen. Greg Hembree, who led the Senate panel that advanced the bill, said he would think inmates sentenced to die would want the option of lethal injection even if the state’s high court upholds executions by the electric chair and firing squad. The 2021 state law says death by lethal injection is still an option when the drugs become available.

“And the only way we’ll be able to offer that option” is with a shield law, said the Little River Republican, a former solicitor.

To the bill’s opponents, he said, “if the goal of fighting this bill is to fight the death penalty, you’ve already lost that fight.”

Previous attempts to pass a shield law in South Carolina were successfully scuttled by death penalty opponents, who in their latest court challenges question why the prison agency can’t secure the drugs for lethal injection as other states have done.

Laura Hudson, director of the Crime Victims’ Council, said the families she advocates for are offended by the whole argument, since the victims killed by death row inmates had no choice in how they died.

“Would someone prefer to not be raped or murdered, or would they prefer to have been shot rather than stabbed? No crime victim had a choice,” said Hudson, who’s advocated for crime victims for 40 years.

She proceeded to read a list of the inmates on South Carolina’s death row, along with their crimes and when they occurred, noting the oldest conviction was 1983.

Hudson faulted a “seemingly never-ending quagmire of convoluted legal games called the criminal injustice system” that she said gives more justice to the killers than the victims, adding that she supports the bill.

“No crime victim wants the wrong person convicted, of course,” she continued. But “I am sick and tired of all the gamesmanship.”

Source: postandcourier.com, Staff, January 20, 2023

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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