What’s more American than multi-billion-dollar prison industrial complex and pharmaceutical companies running out of medicine? We never run out of bullets.
Instead of taking the hint that notoriously greedy drug-makers find the death penalty too shameful to provide the chemicals used in lethal injections, the (in)justice system used it as a way to push the disgusting dilemma onto inmates. ABC News reports that on Friday, Richard Bernard Moore picked death by firing squad for the first execution since South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster’s new law forced death row inmates to choose between the electric chair and guards’ rifles for their execution.
Moore has been on death row for more than 20 years since he was convicted in 1999 for killing convenience store clerk James Mahoney in Spartanburg. Last week, a court ruling made Moore the first inmate forced to choose since the primary form of execution changed from lethal injection to the electric chair with the firing squad as the only alternative. While the 57-year-old doesn’t deny his guilt, he still asserts that neither method is legal or constitutional.
“I believe this election is forcing me to choose between two unconstitutional methods of execution, and I do not intend to waive any challenges to electrocution or firing squad by making an election,” Moore said in a statement.
TV and movies make “the needle” seem painless, humane, and fool-proof, but inmates across the country have filed lawsuits claiming lethal injections are also cruel and unusual. Doctors and major pharmaceutical companies took a stand against the practice, so prisons have resorted to shady unregulated sources and experimental blends of the drugs. Inmates gasping and groaning in pain for up to 40 minutes are proof of how common botched executions really are in the 27 states that relied on lethal injection. Factor in that Black people are disproportionately more likely to be falsely imprisoned, sentenced more harshly, and put on death row, and it’s clear this situation is much deeper than Moore’s case.
The Supreme Court shrugged off these legal objections, ruling that “some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution,” and “while most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune.” The Court again forced a cruel choice on inmates, making them propose a “known and available” alternative method if they object to a method of execution.
What’s more “known and available” in our so-called justice system than a firing squad of trigger-happy law enforcement? If Moore’s legal team can’t intervene, he will face the rifles of 3 volunteers from the South Carolina Department of Corrections. His attorneys are currently asking the state Supreme Court to delay the execution while the U.S. Supreme Court considers that Moore’s death sentence is disproportionately severe compared to similar crimes and another court weighs in on whether the chair or firing squad are cruel and unusual.
After 2 weeks of outrage over the violence of Chris Rock getting slapped, it’s time to think about the forms of violence our society gladly explains away. If the death penalty actually prevented or deterred violent crimes, the U.S. wouldn’t have the highest rates of incarceration or nearly 2,500 others on death row. There are eight states still using the electric chair and four that allow firing squads, but thousands of inmates will likely face the same cruel choice Moore did as lethal injections become increasingly scarce.