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How South Carolina execution firing squad works

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — It’s unknown how long a stay will hold off the execution of Richard Bernard Moore — South Carolina’s first-ever inmate to be put to death by a firing squad — as his attorneys pursue legal challenges.

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But the issuance of Moore’s death warrant, initially planned to be carried out April 29, has renewed interest in how a state puts in motion its plans to shoot an inmate to death. The method is employed in only a handful of states and has not been used in the U.S. in more than a decade.

South Carolina just instituted the firing squad option last year, giving condemned inmates the choice between that and electrocution, prompted by an inability to procure lethal injection drugs.

In choosing the firing squad, the 57-year-old Moore said he didn’t concede that either method was legal or constitutional but that he more strongly opposed death by electrocution and only opted for the firing squad because he was required to make a choice.

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Moore drew the death sentence for the 1999 killing of convenience store clerk James Mahoney in Spartanburg. Planning to rob the store for money to support his cocaine habit, investigators have said that Mahoney pulled a gun, which Moore was able to wrestle away and use to shoot the clerk.

A May 13 execution date has also been set for another inmate, Brad Sigmon, although a state judge is examining his legal argument that both electrocution and the firing squad are “barbaric” methods of killing.

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Only three executions in the United States have been carried out by firing squad since 1976, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. Moore’s would mark the first since Ronnie Lee Gardner ’s 2010 execution by a five-person firing squad in Utah.

EXPLAINER: How South Carolina execution firing squad works  The Associated Press

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