The South Carolina Supreme Court temporarily suspended the state’s plan to begin executing death row inmates by firing squad.
Prior to the ruling, Richard B Moore, 57, convicted of killing a clerk in 1999, would have been the first person executed by firing squad under the plan, on April 29.
Prison officials must now serve a temporary stay.
Moore’s lawyers have asked the higher court for a stay, pointing to pending litigation challenging the constitutionality of South Carolina’s methods of execution.
A more complete order from the South Carolina Supreme Court is expected, detailing its rationale for the suspension.
A state judge has agreed to review a lawsuit by Moore and three other death row inmates challenging South Carolina’s use of the electric chair and firing squad as “barbaric” and unconstitutional.
Separately, Moore also asked a federal judge to examine whether those methods are constitutional.
In addition, his lawyers have asked for more time to petition the courts over Moore’s underlying sentence, arguing that it is disproportionate given the underlying crime at issue and the lack of obvious prior intent.
According to prosecutors, Richard Moore entered the convenience store where the murder of clerk James Mahoney took place while looking for money to feed a cocaine addict.
The two men fought and Mahoney drew a pistol. Moore snatched it from the clerk, who pulled out another gun. A gunfight ensued, with Mahoney shooting Moore in the arm and Moore shooting Mahoney in the chest.
Last year, facing a long shortage of lethal injecting drugs, South Carolina made the electric chair its standard method of execution, offering a three-person firing squad as an alternative.
Moore opted for the firing squad, although he argued in court dismissals that all the options offered were unconstitutional.
Utah is the only state that has executed someone by firing squad in modern US history, most recently in 2010.
On paper, four states retain the punishment — Utah, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Mississippi — while eight still use the electric chair, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
The independent and the non-profit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to its Declaration of Business Leaders Against the Death Penalty – with The Independent as the latest on the list. We’ve joined high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are committed to highlighting the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage.