Justice and Due Process

A Case Against the Death Penalty

On October 22, 2001, Richard Moore received a death penalty sentence. He had been previously convicted in Spartanburg, South Carolina for the murder of James Mahoney. The execution was scheduled for April 29, 2022, over twenty years after the murder.

As this date drew nearer, Moore’s death sentence was met with nationwide public outrage. Many groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina and the South Carolina NAACP, responded with rallies and speeches. Some critics cite the immorality and brutality of the death penalty, while others cite the specifics of the case, claiming it was an unfair ruling.

Moore was given the choice of execution by electric chair or firing squad. The state of South Carolina denied Moore his original preference of execution by lethal injection, claiming that they lack the resources necessary to obtain these drugs. In response to the two options, Moore chose the firing squad. In a written statement, Moore clarified.

“I believe this election is forcing me to choose between two unconstitutional methods of execution, and I do not intend to waive any challenges to electrocution or firing squad by making an election.”

The significance of this execution can not be overstated. This would mark the first execution in South Carolina since 2011. It would also be the fourth execution by firing squad to be performed in the United States since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated. Currently, South Carolina is one of four states to allow the electric chair for execution.

After a lengthy appeal process, the South Carolina Supreme Court granted Richard Moore a temporary stay, stopping the April 29 execution. 

The issues surrounding the death penalty are broader than the length of the waiting time on death row or the manner in which the convicts are executed. Other concerns associated with capital punishment include:

  • The potential for innocent people to be executed
  • The massive expense to taxpayers, even though the death penalty is rarely administered
  • The resulting appeals that force the families of victims to relive the tragedy
  • The lack of scientific evidence that the threat of the death penalty deters crime

The negative effects that result from the legality and administration of the death penalty are present not only in South Carolina, but in many other states including Utah. For the sake of victims’ family members, taxpayers, and innocent convicts, Utah must repeal and replace the death penalty.

Brynn Hiatt is a policy research intern at Libertas Institute of Utah.