Since 1912, there have been 282 executions carried out by the state of South Carolina. Prior to this date executions were carried out by the individual counties. Hanging was the method of execution prior to 1912; then it was electrocution.
For a number of years, South Carolina operated under a fairly typical death penalty statute which provided for the death penalty for a number of crimes including, but not limited to, murder, rape and kidnapping. The statute predicated the imposition of the death penalty in those situations where the jury made a finding of guilt without a recommendation of mercy.
In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Furman v. Georgia, held that the imposition of the death penalty was unconstitutional in those situations where either the court or the jury had practically unfettered discretion to impose the ultimate penalty. The Furman case, in effect, declared most death penalty statutes, including that of South Carolina, to be unconstitutional.
In 1974, South Carolina joined other states in modifying its death penalty statutes with a focus more strictly on capital murder. A number of people in South Carolina were sentenced under this statute, though none were executed. This version of the state’s death penalty statute was declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court in 1977. It was not until 1985 that the law was reinstituted in a way which avoided these legal issues.
In 1995, the General Assembly permitted lethal injection as an alternative execution method, which has since become the standard method.
There have been 43 executions in South Carolina since 1985. State Legislator Herbert Fielding introduced a bill to abolish the death penalty during every legislative session he spent in the South Carolina legislature. None of the bills passed either chamber, but during his tenure (1970-1973 and 1983-1992) the bills kept the issue alive in the minds of South Carolina legislators. More recently, bills have been annually introduced which would expand the use of the death penalty (for example, by allowing ten jurors to impose the death penalty instead of twelve). So far those bills have been rejected.