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After 20 years on death row, inmate chooses firing squad over electrocution

A South Carolina prisoner slated for execution decided to die by firing squad instead of the electric chair, in what he called a choice of “two unconstitutional methods of execution.”

Richard Bernard Moore chose to be executed by firing squad rather than by electrocution.
South Carolina Department of Corrections

Richard Bernard Moore, 57, is set to be the first man to be executed in the state since 2011, and the first to choose his method of death after a law went into effect last year making electrocution the default. If all goes as planned, Moore will be executed on April 29.

Moore spent more than two decades on death row after being convicted of the 1999 murder of a convenience store clerk in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

“I believe this election forces me to choose between two unconstitutional methods of execution, and I do not intend to waive any challenges to electrocution or the firing squad by making an election,” he said. Moore said in a written statement, according to The Associated Press.

Moore’s attorneys are asking the state to delay the execution so the U.S. Supreme Court can determine whether his death sentence was a disproportionate punishment for similar crimes. State judges denied a similar appeal last week.

Electrocution of the firing squad of Richard Bernard Moore
Richard Bernard Moore has been on death row for over 20 years.
Darrin Klimek/Getty

The South Carolina Department of Corrections spent $53,600 to renovate the death chamber to allow for the firing squad method. The death chamber now has bulletproof glass and a chair in the corner of the room away from the current electric chair.

Three volunteers, all employed by the Department of Corrections, will be behind a wall with the guns. The inmate will be tied to the chair with a bag placed over his head.

A small target will be placed over the inmate’s heart. Once the keeper reads the execution order, the team will shoot. Subsequently, a doctor will examine the detainee to declare him dead.

During Moore’s 2001 trial, prosecutors said he walked into a convenience store looking for money to support himself on cocaine and got into an argument with the clerk. The clerk pointed a gun at Moore, which he snatched from him.

The clerk pulled out a second gun and the two began a shootout. The clerk shot Moore in the arm and Moore shot the clerk in the chest, according to court documents. At the time, Moore claimed he acted in self-defense after the clerk pulled out the first gun.

South Carolina is one of eight states to still use the electric chair and one of four to allow a firing squad, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. Other states that allow execution by firing squad are Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah.

In the United States, only three executions have been carried out by firing squad since 1976, according to the center.

Newsweek contacted Moore’s attorney for comment.


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