South Carolina’s top court has delayed the executions of two inmates where were scheduled to die by electric chair within the upcoming week.
According to the Associated Press, the state’s Supreme Court determined that Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens—two men convicted of separate murders—could not be executed until they had the option of death by firing squad. The decision was announced just weeks after South Carolina amended its capital punishment law, which states inmates have the right to chose the manner of their executions. As of now, the only option is death by electric chair, as a firing squad has yet to be established and the drug for lethal injections is currently unavailable.
“The department is moving ahead with creating policies and procedures for a firing squad,” Chrysti Shain, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Corrections, said in a statement. “We are looking to other states for guidance through this process. We will notify the court when a firing squad becomes an option for executions.”
Sigmon, who was scheduled to be executed Friday, was convicted for the 2001 murder of David and Gladys Larke—the parents of his ex-girlfriend. Authorities say the now-63-year-old had entered the family’s home in late April and beat them to death with a bat. He then allegedly waited for his ex to return to the home later that day, and forced her into his car at gunpoint. Sigmon allegedly shot the woman after she managed to jump out of the vehicle during the attempted kidnapping. She survived the attack.
Owens’ execution was set for June 25, more than two decades after he allegedly killed a convenience store clerk. The 43-year-old was accused of shooting the woman in the head during a robbery spree. He has been sentenced to death three times since his initial conviction.
Attorneys for the two men have made numerous attempts to block the executions, while religious leaders and activists have called on the state to repeal its capital punishment laws all together.
“It’s always good news when executions are put on hold, but if the conversation is only about how we kill our prisoners, rather than if the state should have this power, something is very, very wrong,” said Abraham Bonowitz, director of national group Death Penalty Action. “All of this is unnecessary and a costly waste of taxpayer dollars that could be better supporting the needs of all victims of violent crime.”
There are reportedly 37 inmates awaiting execution in South Carolina. The last execution in the state was in 2011.