The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution demands that "cruel and unusual" punishments can't be employed for anyone found guilty of a crime.
The term "cruel and unusual" was deliberately broad, with the founding fathers anticipating the inevitability of society's shifting attitudes toward criminal punishment.
South Carolina shifted backwards in those attitudes earlier this week after its Republican governor, William McMaster, signed a bill designed to navigate the state's shortage of drugs for lethal injection.
This weekend, I signed legislation into law that will allow the state to carry out a death sentence. The families… https://t.co/ZaDZLl35Ya— Gov. Henry McMaster (@Gov. Henry McMaster) 1621261525.0
While the law still allows for death row inmates to opt for lethal injection, electrocution, or firing squad, the new law reverses a policy that granted stays of execution for those who chose lethal injection if supplies weren't available. Now, if lethal injection chemicals aren't in supply, the inmates will be forced to choose between shock or squads. If they choose neither, electrocution becomes the default method.
South Carolina hasn't executed anyone in a decade due to a lack of these drugs. The bill's supporters have said that, because the death penalty is legal, the state has an obligation to carry out death sentences.
The Republican-majority Senate initially offered legislation that only allowed for the electric chair, until state Senator Dick Harpootlian, a Democrat, offered an amendment to allow the option of a firing squad, believing this was more humane.
The morbid decision was met with lawsuits from two death row inmates whose appeals have dried up. They argue that because they were sentenced during a time lethal injection was the default, they cannot constitutionally be executed by firing squad or the electric chair.
South Carolina's law revived widespread calls to abolish the death penalty.
The death penalty is immoral. We should end it. https://t.co/fQUvz4oztZ— Julián Castro (@Julián Castro) 1621265517.0
The death penalty has no place in a civilized society. https://t.co/lR2C2LKX3T— Nina Turner (@Nina Turner) 1621309907.0
The death penalty is grotesque no matter the method. We must abolish it. https://t.co/BSiqtALlQd— Jamaal Bowman (@Jamaal Bowman) 1621293090.0
This is brutal, inhumane, and does nothing to deter crime. The death penalty needs to be abolished. https://t.co/RZwc6EpJq8— Charles Booker (@Charles Booker) 1621272093.0
There is a shortage of medications used for lethal injection. Instead of halting the death penalty, South Carolina… https://t.co/mcSPgdaVx1— Ryan Chase (@Ryan Chase) 1621276190.0
Many found support for the death penalty from "pro-life" Republicans to be hypocritical at best.
It is so difficult for me to fathom how anyone could believe that this is compatible with a "pro-life" worldview. I… https://t.co/8h4Nd2pyn5— Erin Salmon (@Erin Salmon) 1621283178.0
There is nothing pro-life about the death penalty. https://t.co/txOpPY9K9z— Shane Claiborne (@Shane Claiborne) 1621399261.0
It's unclear when the executions will begin.