US state halts all executions as it has no firing squad and no lethal injections

A US state has been forced to temporarily halt all executions because it has no firing squad and ran out of all of its stock of lethal injections.

Brad Sigmon, 63, and Freddie Owens, 43, cannot be put to death until they have a second option to the electric chair to choose from, South Carolina's Supreme Court has told officials.

Their plans for a firing squad have not yet been finalised.

In May, a law passed seeking to close a loophole that allowed for inmates on death row to indefinitely postpone their executions as long as drugs required for lethal injection were unavailable. South Carolina had run out.

Under the new powers signed last month by Republican Governor Henry McMaster, inmates must now choose either electrocution or firing squad as their methods of execution.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections director said in an affidavit that as of June 3, the only method of execution available in the State is electrocution, according to the supreme court's order.

"Lethal injection is unavailable due to circumstances outside of the control of the Department of Corrections, and firing squad is currently unavailable due to the Department of Corrections having yet to complete its development and implementation of necessary protocols and policies," the order said.

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"Under these circumstances, in which electrocution is the only method of execution available, and due to the statutory right of inmates to elect the manner of their execution, we vacate the execution notice," the court said of the death warrants.

As a result of failing to have a second execution method, the order added: "We further direct the Clerk of Court not to issue another execution notice until the state notifies the Court that the Department of Corrections, in addition to maintaining the availability of electrocution, has developed and implemented appropriate protocols and policies to carry out executions by firing squad," the order added.

Sigmon had been set to be put to death on Friday, June 18.

He was convicted in 2001 of beating his ex-girlfriend's parents, David, and Gladys Larke, to death with a baseball bat.

It would have been South Carolina's first since 2011.

Owens, who was found guilty of the murder of a petrol station employee in 1997 during a robbery spree, was set to be executed on June 25.

South Carolina is one of eight states to still use the electric chair and four to allow a firing squad.

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Following the men's reprieve, Chrysti Shain, a spokeswoman for the South Carolina Department of Corrections, said: "The department is moving ahead with creating policies and procedures for a firing squad.

"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.

America is increasingly torn over its use of the death penalty.

Whereas Donald Trump pushed for capital punishment, new US leader Joe Biden has called for it to end.

Earlier this month, it was revealed Arizona has secretly updated its execution chamber, planning to use the gas Nazis employed to kill almost a million Jews at Auschwitz.

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