COLUMBIA, S.C. -- An inmate scheduled to die later this month under South Carolina's recently reworked capital punishment law is asking to take part in another inmate's federal request to block his electrocution, with his attorneys arguing that combining their cases would save the courts time and money.
In papers filed in federal court on Friday, attorneys for Freddie Owens sought permission to intervene in a request filed a day earlier by Brad Sigmon. On Thursday, Sigmon's lawyers sought to halt his upcoming execution in the electric chair, arguing the state hasn’t exhausted all methods to procure the drugs needed to carry out lethal injection, South Carolina's default method.
Allowing him to intervene in Sigmon's case, Owens' lawyers wrote, “serves the interest of judicial economy and avoids redundant or inconsistent judgments” due to the similarities of the men's requests.
Both men have exhausted their traditional appeals. Owens' execution is scheduled for June 25. Sigmon is scheduled to die a week earlier, on June 18. A hearing in the federal case is set for Wednesday.
Attorneys for both inmates were expected in state court Monday, for arguments that South Carolina's new law is unconstitutional because the men were sentenced under an older iteration of the statute that made lethal injection the default execution method.
That lawsuit was filed shortly after Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law a bill that forces death row inmates for now to choose between the electric chair or a newly formed firing squad, in hopes the state can restart executions after an involuntary 10-year pause that the state attributed to the inability to procure lethal injection drugs. Lethal injection remains the default method, but the new law compels the condemned to choose between electrocution and a firing squad if drugs aren’t available.
In the papers filed Friday, Owens' attorneys included an affidavit from state Corrections Director Bryan Stirling, who notes that the only method available to the state is electrocution.
South Carolina's last execution took place in 2011, and its lethal injection drugs expired in 2013. The state, one of eight that still electrocute inmates, has yet to assemble a firing squad. There are 37 men on the state’s death row.
The other three states that allow a firing squad are Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Three inmates, all in Utah, have been killed by firing squad since the U.S. reinstated the death penalty in 1977. Nineteen inmates have died in the electric chair this century, according to the center.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.