SC lawmakers advance bill to shield execution-drug sellers

The identities of drug companies that supply execution drugs to South Carolina would become secret under legislation approved Tuesday by a panel of state lawmakers.
Read the article at The State

NOTE: there are actually two bills, one in the senate and a companion bill in the house. This will speed up the process of having it become law, since both can work their way up simultaneously and then be combined by a conference committee. Full text of each bill (will be updated soon after there is action on a bill):  S. 553   and H. 3853

Please contact your state senator as soon as you can and ask him/her to vote against S.553, and please ask your state representative to vote against H.3853.  Click here for your legislators’ contact info. If you’d like talking points, email anna(at)charlestonpeace.net

Backup copy of the State article on this site:

The legislation would add drug companies to the state’s execution team and require their identities be kept secret, in the hope that providers will resume selling execution drugs to the state. The proposal also would exempt the companies from state health and purchasing rules. A Senate subcommittee voted for it unanimously.

South Carolina has run out of 1 of its 3 lethal injection drugs, the anesthetic pentobarbital, and cannot find anyone willing to sell more. Corrections director Bryan Stirling has said that if their names were shielded from the public, as the names of individuals involved in carrying out executions already are, pharmaceutical companies might be willing to start selling the drugs again.

State Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Berkeley, chairman of the subcommittee, said the measure was intended to protect the companies from protests and lawsuits but also would enable the state’s prisons agency to complete its duty of performing executions.

“It allows the Department of Corrections to carry out the verdict that was handed down by the court system,” Campbell said. “Without this, they have a very difficult time carrying out those instructions.”

No one spoke in opposition to the bill, which will be considered by the full Senate Corrections and Penology Committee later this week. In an interview after Tuesday’s meeting, Stirling said he was pleased the bill was moving forward and that, in the meantime, his agency continues its search for more pentobarbital.

“We are actively trying to find a company that will sell us this drug for executions,'” Stirling said.

The legislation was patterned after bills in other states that have run into problems obtaining execution drugs. Texas, the country’s most active death penalty state, is working to find a supplier to replenish its dwindling inventory amid a pending court order that would no longer allow the state to protect the supplier’s identity.

Ohio is out of the 3 drugs it needs. In February, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by 4 death row inmates there who challenged a similar shield law. Similar fights are ongoing in other death penalty states such as Oklahoma and Missouri. But courts – including the U.S. Supreme Court – have yet to halt an execution based on a state’s refusal to reveal its drug supplier.