The South Carolina Supreme Court granted a temporary delay in implementing the state’s first-ever execution by firing squad for 57-year-old inmate Richard Bernard Moore.
The order came after his attorneys pleaded for a halt to his execution due to pending litigation in another court questioning the constitutionality of the state’s execution tactics, including electrocution. Moore’s attorneys believed the South Carolina inmate’s punishment was disproportionate to his crime.
According to court documents obtained by News Onyx, the incident Moore was involved in occurred in the early morning hours of Sept. 16, 1999, at Nikki’s Speedy Mart in Spartanburg County. The documents confirmed that he entered the store unarmed, looking for money to buy cocaine. He and the victim, store clerk James Mahoney, argued, causing Mahoney to draw one of the guns he had stored under the counter. Witnesses confirmed Mahoney kept several guns at that location.
Moore wrestled the gun away from Mahoney, leading the store clerk to draw a second firearm. The two engaged in a gunfight, resulting in Mahoney shooting the man in the arm. Moore reportedly returned fire, fatally shooting Mahoney in the chest.
The jury convicted Moore of armed robbery, murder, assault with intent to kill, and “possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.” Moore’s attorneys argue that their client couldn’t have had an intent to kill when he entered the store without a gun in his possession.
During his sentencing trial in 2001, the judge sentenced Moore to death.
The state’s high court allowed Moore to choose his form of execution 14 days before the date, which was set for April 29. His options were the electric chair or firing squad. In a written statement, Moore chose the latter option and explained his choice.
“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.
Moore’s reasons for the two options — are the state’s inability to obtain lethal injection drugs. The last execution was back in 2011, in which the state executed Jeffrey Motts by lethal injection for strangling a cellmate. State officials contend the last parcel of injections expired in 2013.
South Carolina had a total of 43 recorded executions from 1985 to 2011. Those executed between those times had the choice of lethal injections, a less brutal method, and electrocution.
There are currently 35 inmates on death row in South Carolina, and those inmates will also have to choose between those two options unless a change happens. Along with the inmate’s attorneys, three other death row inmates’ counsel see the firing squad as “barbaric” and want the judge to look into the claims by prison officials that they can’t get access to lethal injections.
In 2021, it was signed into law that the electric chair would be the state’s default execution method, along with ratifying the firing squad as another option for condemned inmates.
Moore’s execution date was set after renovations were made in the Captial Punishment Facility to accommodate a firing squad.