US State backs use of electric chair amid shortage of lethal injection drugs

After years without the drugs to do lethal injections, a US State senate has agreed to require condemned inmates go to the electric chair instead.

South Carolina law has empowered residents of death row to make a choice between lethal injection and the electric chair since 1995, so the lack of drugs enabled them to stay alive by choosing injections.

Capital punishment essentially ended in 2011 in South Carolina, a state that had been averaging close to two executions a year.

"He picks out the option that can't be carried out, extending his life indefinitely," complained a sponsor of the bill, state Senator William Timmons.

The proposal passed 26-12 yesterday and faces a last procedural vote today before being sent to the House, where it is expected to face even less opposition.

South Carolina has electrocuted more than 200 inmates since first installing the electric chair in 1912, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre, including 14-year-old George Stinney in 1944, who remained the youngest person executed in the United States in the 20th century.

A judge finally vacated the black teenager's conviction in 2014, saying he did not get a fair trial in the deaths of two white girls.

The drugs South Carolina uses to perform lethal injections expired a few years ago, and pharmacies have refused to sell the state new drugs, either because they are ethically against their use in executions, or because they don't want their names made public if they do sell them.

- PA

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