South Carolina is pushing to enact a law to shield the identities of pharmaceutical companies that supply the state with drugs used for lethal injections, according to an article by The Associated Press.
The state is looking to end its 12-year period of being unable to carry out executions due to a failure to secure the needed lethal drugs after its supply expired in 2013.
“Even if we pass this ― I want to be clear ― this is not a guarantee that we’re going to get the drugs. It’s just another tool we can use to talk to companies,” said Bryan Stirling, director of South Carolina’s corrections department.
If enacted, the law would protect the identities of those involved in the manufacture, selling and handling of lethal drugs used for executions.
South Carolina’s struggles to carry out executions began after pharmaceutical companies started refusing to sell their drugs to prison officials out of concern for reputational harm due to the intended use of taking human lives, said the article.
State officials have also feared that prison employees involved in the execution process would not participate if their names were made public. Of the 14 states that have carried out the death penalty within the last five years, most already have similar shield laws in place.
The push for a shield law in South Carolina began after Death Row inmates challenged a 2021 law that would have allowed executions to resume by either firing squad or the state’s hundred-year-old electric chair.
Lawyers for South Carolina’s 30 Death Row inmates faced with this choice argued that both execution methods are cruel and unusual punishments. However, all sides involved in the case agreed that lethal injection is legal. Thus, for now, the issue of South Carolina moving forward with its executions returns back to the state’s inability to find a supplier for the lethal drugs.
Victim advocate Laura Hudson said it is an insult to the victims that the state is unable to carry out court-ordered executions. She said the state has a duty to carry out retribution for the murder of people’s loved ones. On the other side of the debate are cries for transparency and respect for due process.
Allie Menegakis, founder of South Carolina for Criminal Justice Reform, expressed concern about the ramifications of the proposed shield law.
“When we’re talking about someone actually killed by the government, what is being used to kill, where this drug comes from, and whether it is safe, whether it has been regulated ― you and everyone else will have no access to that information,” she said.
As of January 2023, the bill had been approved by a state Senate subcommittee and was scheduled for full committee review before going to the Republican-dominated state legislature for a vote. If the law is approved, the state would still need to find a compounding pharmacy to mix the lethal drugs prior to their use.