SOUTH CAROLINA – Rate of death sentences, executions slows in state

may 7, 2012 source

COLUMBIA — A judge in Lexington County is considering doing something that hasn’t been done in South Carolina in over 14 months — send a convicted murderer to death row.

If Kenneth Lynch is sentenced to death for killing a 7-year-old girl and her 53-year-old grandmother, he would be the 52nd inmate on South Carolina’s death row, boosting the population up from its nearly two decade-low.

The pace of executions has slowed considerably too. South Carolina has executed just one inmate in past three years. There were 72 people awaiting execution in the state at the end of June 2005, and just 10 executions in the state since then. Prosecutors in South Carolina sent no one to death row in 2011, the first time that happened since at least 1994.

It’s not that South Carolina has lost its willingness to put people to death. More than a dozen death penalty bills were filed during this session of the General Assembly, many of them seeking to add crimes to the list of aggravating factors prosecutors must prove to get a death sentence. The state also changed the way it conducts lethal injections because of a shortage of one of the drugs it had been using.

As states like Connecticut outlaw capital punishment, and neighbor North Carolina discusses whether it is applied fairly, South Carolina seems content with its laws as written.

Instead, prosecutors worry that complex death penalty trials are too expensive in all but the most extreme cases. South Carolina abolished parole for life sentences in 1995, making “life means life” an attractive option for juries and prosecutors who can use the chance of the death penalty to leverage a guilty plea.

There may be no better way to illustrate how seeking the death penalty has changed in South Carolina in the past two decades than the case of Shaquan Duley, who is serving 35 years in prison after pleading guilty in March to suffocating her 2-year-old and 18-month-old sons, putting them into a car and rolling them into a Orangeburg County river to try to make it look like an accidental drowning

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