Court halts South Carolina from its first-ever firing squad execution

Richard Bernard Moore has been on death row for more than 2 decades (Picture: Justice 360; South Carolina Department of Corrections)

South Carolina’s highest court on Wednesday temporarily blocked the state from carrying out what was set to be its first-ever execution of a death row inmate by firing squad.

The order by the state Supreme Court will at least temporarily block the planned execution of Richard Bernard Moore, who was given the death sentence for the 1999 killing of convenience store clerk James Mahoney. His execution, which would have been the first in the US via firing squad since 2010, was scheduled for April 29.

The court issued a temporary stay, and said that it would release a more detailed order later.

Attorneys for Moore, 57, had sought a stay, citing pending litigation in another court challenging the constitutionality of the state’s execution methods, which include the electric chair.

His attorneys also wanted more time to ask the US Supreme Court to review whether Moore’s sentence was proportionate to his crime.

The state’s last execution was in 2011, largely due to trouble securing lethal injection drugs after the state’s last batch expired in 2013. In 2021, looking to solve that problem, a law was created that designates the electric chair the default execution method instead. It also allows for firing squad as a second option.

Moore’s execution date was set after officials disclosed last month that they had made renovations to the state’s death chamber that would accommodate the firing squad.

South Carolina is one of eight states that still use the electric chair and one of four — including Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah — to allow a firing squad, according to the non-profit, Death Penalty Information Center.

Moore has spent over two decades on death row after he was convicted of fatally shooting James Mahoney in 2001. During his trial, prosecutors said Moore had entered Nikki’s Speedy Mart in Spartanburg looking for money to fuel his cocaine habit.

Moore got into an argument with Mahoney, who was the store’s cashier. Mahoney drew a pistol that Moore wrestled away from him. He pulled a second gun, causing a gunfight to ensue. Mahoney shot Moore in the arm and MOore shot Mahoney in the chest, ending up killing him.

Attorneys for Moore argue that he couldn’t have intended to kill someone when he entered the store because he didn’t bring a gun with him.


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