CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - There are 37 inmates on South Carolina’s death row amid a national struggle to purchase the drugs required to execute them.
The 37 inmates, some of the most violent criminals ever convicted in South Carolina, have spent a total of more than 654 years on death row.
They’ve each spent an average of 18 years awaiting execution, according to information from the SC Department of Corrections death row roster.
Court records show some of those death row prisoners raped and murdered women; one killed a child to punish his ex-wife.
Ten of them killed law enforcement officers.
Murder weapons they used included guns, screwdrivers, hammers, knives and gasoline.
Death row inmates are housed in Columbia and Kirkland Correctional Institution.
Fred Singleton, for example, was convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to death in September of 1983. He’s now been in Department of Corrections custody for 36 years, which is longer than any other death row prisoner.
If an official death order by lethal injection was sent to the Department of Corrections, it could not be carried out.
The Department of Corrections still does not have and cannot obtain the drugs required to execute by lethal injection.
Timothy Jones, the Lexington man recently convicted for killing his five children and dumping their bodies in Alabama, is undergoing a sentencing hearing this week.
He faces the possibility of the death sentence.
We asked the Department of Corrections what that means in a state that can’t currently carry out lethal injection.
“I’m not going to get into specific security but it’s one of our most secure areas and secure housing units we have, for obvious reasons,” Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said.
Stirling said when he started in his current position, one of the lethal injection drugs expired.
He directed his team to buy more, but drug companies refused to sell them. It’s been an ongoing nationwide shortage.
“Your viewers should know it’s not like we have had an death order and we had a certain amount of time to carry it out and said we can’t carry it out,” Stirling said. “We were pretty close a couple of years ago, and then that appeal went on.”
By law, after an inmate’s appeals are exhausted, the inmate can choose lethal injection or the electric chair.
So if he chose lethal injection, the Department of Corrections would be stalled.
“The last two years, the Senate has passed legislation that would be default, which means if the drugs aren’t available it would default to the electric chair. We do have the ability to still use the electric chair. That passed the senate this year but did not pass the House of Representatives,” Stirling said.
The last execution in South Carolina was in 2011. All current death row inmates are still involved in the appeals process.
“I think my role is educating the general assembly that we have a problem and they need to fix an issue in the law,” Stirling said. “Now the ball’s in their court and they need to fix it.”
South Carolina has not carried out any executions since 2011.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The current death row roster from DCDOC has 36 inmates listed; Jerome Jenkins was sentenced to death last month in Horry County and will be added to the next updated list.