Death Penalty Sentences – By Firing Squad?

Arrested man with cuffed hands

A South Carolina man could die by firing squad April 29. Richard Bernard Moore was convicted of murder in South Carolina in 2001 and is currently 53 years old.

The sentence for a person convicted of murder and other capital crimes in the United States can range from years in prison to death. Twenty-four states, including Ohio and South Carolina still have an active death penalty or capital punishment sanctioned by the government of those states. South Carolina, however, has only recently sanctioned death by firing squad. South Carolina also provides the option of carrying out the sentence by use of the electric chair or lethal injection.

If you are being investigated or have been charged with a capital crime, it is imperative that you contact an experienced Ohio criminal defense attorney who can defend your rights, and if found guilty, help reduce your punishment.

The last death sentence that was carried out in Ohio occurred in 2018 using lethal injection. Most states that use capital punishment incorporate either the electric chair or lethal injection. However, like many states, South Carolina has had difficulty obtaining the drugs needed for lethal injections, which has been viewed as the most humane way to carry out the sentence. Proponents say that the firing squad may now be the next most humane way to take someone’s life for the crime of murder and other capital crimes. Capital crimes include the following.

What are crimes punishable by the death penalty?

  • Murder – to purposely and deliberately take another person’s life.

(For a killing to be considered murder, the victim must be killed. Therefore attempted murder is generally not punishable by the death penalty.)

  • Treason – betraying one’s country
  • Crimes against humanity – a deliberate act that causes large scale suffering of people
  • Genocide – the purposeful killing of a large group of people with the intent of eliminating that group
  • Espionage – Using spies to collect information

Capital crime convictions always carry hefty sentences, but the death penalty is not always the result. Lengthy prison sentences up to life in prison can also be imposed.

What circumstances make murder punishable by death?

Each state has their own criteria that qualifies a murder as punishable by death, and the Supreme Court has laid-out criteria to test whether or not a murder qualifies for the death sentence. Depending on the circumstances, some states may impose a death sentence for crimes where someone dies but wasn’t necessarily killed by the convicted person. An experienced Ohio criminal defense attorney can help distinguish between cases where the death penalty may and may not be imposed in Ohio.

Can Ohio use the firing squad to carry out a death sentence?

The eighth amendment, which bans cruel and unusual punishment, applies to all states. So how can South Carolina use the firing squad to carry out a death sentence? According to state officials the method, if used on April 29, will have three trained officers shoot Richard Moore directly in the heart from 15 feet away in a chamber they recently renovated just for this purpose. Since the Moore will have a hood over his head and be given the opportunity for any last words, they feel the protocol does not meet the standard for cruel and unusual. Ohio does not currently allow the use of a firing squad to carry out a death sentence, nor is there any legislation proposing such an option.

Being investigated as a person of interest or a suspect for killing another person, whether due to an accident, a case of mistaken identity, attempted murder, or homicide, is a serious matter.

If police want to question you or someone you know about a death, it is absolutely critical that you seek the help of a qualified Ohio criminal defense attorney before talking to law enforcement. An experienced attorney can set up a safe and effective way to relay the information the police want without compromising your rights. The attorney can also poke holes in the offense or demonstrate a lack of evidence or intent to kill anyone. All of these techniques can result in you being removed as a person of interest or suspect in the killing.

Sources: The Associated Press, April 2022. The Death Penalty Information Center, April 2022.

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