CONWAY, SC (WBTW)- South Carolina law makers are talking about where the state stands on the death penalty.
The state has not executed anyone since 2011, in part, because its supply of lethal injection has expired, and prison officials have been unable to buy more.
There are four people sitting on death row from Horry and Georgetown counties.
Some law makers are talking about ways to continue carrying out executions, and some want to end it all together, but as of right now no one is dying on death row.
Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said Horry County was the last to try a death penalty case in the state, and was set to try the next one. That’s until Mckinley Daniels accepted a guilty plea last month for the 2015 Sunhouse robberies and murders. Richardson said they’re not like most circuits who’ve done away with carrying it out.
“It’s not a quick turn around and a lot can happen in 14 years, so we didn’t know what that would be but figured there would be a change in legislation,” said Richardson.
Representative Eddie Tallon proposed a “shield law” that will give pharmaceutical companies anonymity to sell the state the drugs necessary for lethal injection.
The state senate recently passed a bill switching the main way executions are preformed from lethal injection to electrocution. The proposed bill allows inmates to choose lethal injection if the drugs are available. It also allows for the firing squad.
Richardson has personally worked two death penalty cases, Stephen Stanko and Luzenski Cottrell. Both men still sit on death row.
“My conscience is clear. I wouldn’t go that route unless I thought it was the worst of the worst and everything else has been tried and we can’t turn the likes of you back loose on society,” said Richardson.
Senator Gerald Malloy, of Darlington, proposed abolishing the death penalty. He said he filed that to start a discussion.
“There were times that I was totally against it because I think it’s disproportionate against minorities and poor people, and I’ve seen some heinous cases that are just repulsive,” said Sen. Malloy.
The South Carolina Department of Corrections didn’t allow News 13 inside death row or talk to inmates, but we found someone who was allowed inside. Steve Schonveld was a volunteer on death row in 2017.
“I found the people behind the bars are not what you see on tv,” said Schonveld.
He said they’re human beings craving human interaction, in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.
Schonveld said they would have normal conversations, “talking about sports, talking about family, talking about what I do for a living.”
“Should we be killing them? It’s a struggle with my moral compass and actually going back there and talking to them made it even more of a struggle,” said Schonveld.
One inmate he spent time talking to was Stephen Stanko. In 2005, Stanko killed his girlfriend Laura Ling and raped her teenage daughter in Murrells Inlet. He then went to Conway and killed his friend and business partner Henry Turner.
“He would let me ask him pretty much anything I wanted to I felt like he was being honest with me. He showed some remorse which I’d like to see,” said Schonveld.
News 13 asked if Stanko believed in the death penalty.
“He said he was for it in some situations, and against it in some situations,” said Schonveld.
News 13 also asked how Stanko felt about his situation.
“He wouldn’t give me an answer. He wouldn’t give me an answer,” said Schonveld.
Schonveld said he doesn’t believe the death penalty deters crime, but the McGarry’s do. Their son Joe McGarry was a police officer killed in the line of duty in 2002.
“I’ve gone through unfathomable pain, emotional pain, depression. My life was really over December 29th,” said Anita McGarry, Joe McGarry’s wife
McGarry and other officers were investigating a suspicious person when McGarry was shot in the head. Luzenski Cottrell was convicted of his murder, and sits on death row.
“I just want to stay alive long enough to see him take his last breath,” said Joe McGarry, Sr.
News 13 asked, “Do you think that will help bring you closure?”
Joe McGarry Sr. said, “For me it will.”
“The only thing that’s going to bring me closure is when I die and go to heaven and see Joey,” said Anita McGarry.
To read proposed legislation regarding electrocution, click here.
To read proposed legislation regarding the “shield law,” click here.
To read proposed legislation regarding abolishing the death penalty, click here.
For the list of current death row inmates, click here.