South Carolina Sets An Execution By Firing Squad | Crooked Media
April 17, 2022
What A Day
South Carolina Sets An Execution By Firing Squad

In This Episode

  • The city of Mariupol has been one of the worst sites of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While Ukrainian forces have held their ground, reports are now saying that Mariupol is likely to fall to Russian forces soon.
  • A man named Richard Moore in South Carolina is scheduled to become the fourth person executed in the United States this year. Moore was given the option of being killed by the electric chair or by a firing squad, and last Friday he announced that he chose the firing squad.
  • And in headlines: Protestors gathered to demand the release of Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted to adopt GOP-drawn legislative maps, and Florida officials said they rejected 54 math textbooks from next year’s school curriculum.


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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, April 18th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, reminding you of the 1099 WAD form you need to include in your tax returns as a listener of this podcast.


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, and I am sending up a prayer for all of you who have not yet done your taxes.


Josie Duffy Rice: This feels very personal because I have not yet done my taxes.


Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, we talk about a rare scheduled execution in South Carolina by firing squad. Plus, Florida rejected dozens of potential math textbooks because of critical race theory—question mark?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, I am going to need more of an explanation there. But first, let’s bring you the latest from Ukraine, where the fate of the southern port city of Mariupol hangs in the balance. So Tre’vell, can you catch us up?


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. So for seven weeks, the city of Mariupol has been one of the main sites of the worst of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine. There was a maternity hospital that was hit by an airstrike in the opening weeks of the war, there was the theater that civilians had been using as a shelter that was also leveled. In total, at least 21,000 people have been killed in Mariupol alone, according to Ukrainian estimates, and there are over 100,000 civilians still in the city suffering from food and water shortages. And while Ukrainian forces have been a lot more successful at holding their ground than many expected, reports are now saying that Mariupol is likely to fall to Russian forces soon. There is apparently just one pocket of resistance left in the city, an estimated 2,500 Ukrainian fighters and 400 foreign mercenaries are holed up in a steel mill in the city. On Sunday, Moscow gave them a midday deadline to surrender, saying that those who did would be quote, “guaranteed to keep their lives” and quote, “all those who will continue. Resistance will be destroyed.”


Josie Duffy Rice: That sounds terrifying. So how did Ukraine respond to that ultimatum?


Tre’vell Anderson: So as is par for the course, they rejected it. They’ve done that for all of the other ultimatums that Russia has presented them with thus far. On Sunday, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal even said on ABC’s This Week that while they are prepared to end the war through diplomacy, if possible, they quote, “do not have intention to surrender.” Here’s more of what he said:


[clip of Denys Shmyhal] We will not surrender. We will not leave our country, our families, our land, so we will fight absolutely till the end, till the win in this war.


Tre’vell Anderson: As of our recording at 9:30 Eastern on Sunday night, Russia’s deadline had passed, but there haven’t been reports of violence in Mariupol just yet. However, Russia did increase its aerial attacks throughout the rest of Ukraine over the weekend as retaliation for the Ukrainian missile attack that sank the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet last week. In addition to the cities of Kramatorsk and Kharkiv, the capital of Kyiv was a particular focus, with Russia attacking an ammunition plant Saturday night using precision-guided missiles. This all is said to be in preparation for an all-out offensive in the coming days as Russia attempts to take control of the Donbas, which is Ukraine’s eastern industrial region, which means the overall death toll of the war is definitely sure to increase. That is the update on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and we’ll continue to bring you more info as it develops.


Josie Duffy Rice: Thanks, Tre’vell. Now turning to some news about capital punishment in America. Later this month, a man named Richard Moore in South Carolina is scheduled to become the fourth person executed in the United States this year. He was convicted for a 1999 killing of a convenience store clerk. Moore was given the option of being killed by the electric chair or by firing squad. Last Friday, he announced that he chose the firing squad. So on April 29th, three volunteer correctional officers will shoot him, aiming at his heart.


Tre’vell Anderson: My lord, have mercy on me. It seems like execution by firing squad is, you know, a little much, but also pretty unusual, I think. Is that right?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. Up until this point, only three people have been executed by firing squad since 1976, when the death penalty was once again ruled constitutional after a short nationwide ban. All of those people have been in Utah, and they’re few and far between. The last one was in 2010. In fact, only four states even authorized the firing squad as a method of execution, and even among the states that do only three people on death row have selected it. In 1996, a man on death row named John Taylor, chose the firing squad quote, “to make a statement that Utah was sanctioning murder.


Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. So if it’s so rare and will obviously be painful, why is Mr. Moore choosing to do it?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s a good question, and the answer really highlights the politics and legal complications of the death penalty in this moment. So last year, South Carolina passed a law that required those on death row to choose between the electric chair and the firing squad. And Moore said in a statement that he only picked the firing squad because he was forced to make a choice, but he added that both methods were quote, “two unconstitutional methods of execution.” For years, the vast majority of the people executed in South Carolina and across the country were killed by lethal injection, but in recent years, it’s been harder and harder for states to get their hands on the drugs necessary for that method of execution. So due to their quote, “frustration” over the difficulties surrounding lethal injection, the state passed this law: electric chair or a firing squad—those are your choices.


Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. OK, interesting decision making on behalf of South Carolina, but that is my state, so I guess I can’t talk too much about it.


Josie Duffy Rice: You can. You can especially talks about it because it’s your state.


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. So now tell me, why has it become so much harder to even get these drugs necessary for lethal injection?


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s really a combination of like PR troubles and legal strategy. So many anti-death penalty advocates have tried to eliminate capital punishment by making it harder to execute people. And part of that strategy has included decreasing the availability of these drugs. Plus, pharmaceutical companies began making it harder for states to get their hands on these drugs since they didn’t want to be associated with killing people—that makes sense to me, I wouldn’t want to be associated with killing people—this resulted in states literally buying these deadly drugs illegally on the Black market like from someone’s trunk that they found on Craigslist. I mean, it was very dark. And now, as we see here, states are resorting to just different methods of killing people.


Tre’vell Anderson: So people seem really upset about the firing squad and they see it as inhumane and I’m inclined to agree. What are your thoughts?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, I mean, it is inhumane. Capital punishment is inhumane in order to punish Richard Moore for killing, South Carolina is going to pay three people to kill him. I mean, it makes no sense. It’s absolutely horrific. It’s unimaginable. But I must say, I’m not sure it’s any worse to shoot him than it is to kill him via lethal injection. And the firing squad is definitely better than the electric chair. In fact, the state senator who proposed the firing squad as an alternate method is a Democrat who called the electric chair quote, “an extraordinarily gruesome, horrendous process where they essentially catch on fire and don’t die immediately.” Even lethal injection might be more painful than the firing squad, to be honest. While traditionally lethal injection has been thought of as like more humane, there’s been a lot of pushback over the years against that idea. Basically, lethal injection paralyzes the person being executed, so they’re in pain but others can’t tell they’re in pain, and it can take like 15 minutes or more for them to die. In fact, a few years ago, it took one guy 43 minutes to die by lethal injection—43 minutes. So is this bad as a firing squad bad? Yes, but it’s all bad. It’s all absolutely awful. And the truth is, capital punishment is less popular than it ever has been. Recent Gallup polls show it has the lowest supported it’s had since the early 1970s, and in recent years, fewer than 50 people per year have been sentenced to death, about one sixth of what it was in the 1990s.


Tre’vell Anderson: So as far as Richard Moore’s scheduled execution, what’s the status of the effort to stop it?


Josie Duffy Rice: His lawyers have asked the state Supreme Court to delay it, while another court investigates whether both methods offered to him are cruel and unusual punishment, and also said the U.S. Supreme Court could theoretically determine if his death sentence was disproportionate to his crime. But these appeals are like basically impossible, right? They’re extremely, extremely, extremely unlikely to be successful, and chances are that Richard Moore will be executed by the state of South Carolina in the near future. So we’ll keep you up to date on that as it develops, but that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Tre’vell Anderson: Now, let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Tre’vell Anderson: In devastating news, there were three mass shootings in the US over the weekend. Two of them were in South Carolina and the other was in Pennsylvania. On Saturday, a gunman opened fire at a shopping mall in South Carolina’s capital Columbia. Nine people were shot and five were injured as they fled the scene. Thankfully, none of the victims face life-threatening injuries, and police have arrested a suspect. But the state had no time to catch its breath because the very next day, another mass shooting took place at a nightclub in Hampton County, just 90 miles south of the Columbia Mall. Authorities are still investigating this one, but as of our recording, we know that at least nine people were injured and authorities have yet to make an arrest. Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, gunfire erupted at a house party early Sunday morning, killing two minors and leaving eight people injured. It’s believed there were multiple shooters involved, although no arrests have been made there, either. According to the Gun Violence Archive, these events bring the national total to mass shootings this year to 139, and they come just days after President Biden unveiled a new policy to crack down on ghost guns in hopes of reducing gun violence nationwide.


Josie Duffy Rice: On Sunday, protesters across several Palestinian territories gathered to demand the release of thousands of Palestinians currently being held in Israeli jails. These demonstrations were part of Palestinian Prisoners Day, an annual occasion dedicated to showing solidarity with these detainees, many of whom are being held indefinitely without charge or trial. This year’s Prisoners Day comes after Israeli police forcefully entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem twice over the weekend, detaining and injuring hundreds of Palestinians. Police first entered the compound on Friday and detained hundreds of people during their early morning prayers. Videos of the incident show officers using tear gas and stun grenades at the holy site, and it’s the most violent confrontation the mosque has seen in nearly a year. Israeli police entered the site again on Sunday, and according to Palestinian medical officials, at least 19 people were injured in that confrontation. The Al-Aqsa raids come amid a wave of violent clashes in the West Bank between Israeli police and Palestinians. Over the past month, there have been four attacks by Palestinians in different Israeli cities, which have left 14 people dead and at least 22 Palestinians have been killed, while Israeli police have ramped up their raids of Palestinian cities and villages.


Tre’vell Anderson: In Wisconsin, the system lets people entrenched party power for years on end is working just as the founding fathers never intended it. The state’s conservative Supreme Court voted on Friday to adopt gerrymandered maps drawn by Republicans who control the Legislature, reversing its earlier decision in favor of maps drawn by the state’s Democratic governor. The U.S. Supreme Court had overruled that earlier decision. Their objections centered on whether Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’s addition of a new majority Black assembly district was required under the Federal Voting Rights Act. In their Friday ruling, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said the Governor had failed to justify this inclusion, leading the justices to prefer the Republican maps, which they described as quote, “race neutral.” Notably, where the map drawn by Evers added an assembly district with the Black majority, the Republican map removed one. The new map to effectively lock in Republican majorities in the state House until the next time redistricting happens in Wisconsin. Evers called the state Supreme Court’s decision quote, “an unconscionable miscarriage of justice, for which the people of this state will see no reprieve for another decade.” Also in election news, Trump endorsed the author of Hillbilly Elegy and salt-of-the-Earth venture capitalist J.D. Vance in his Ohio primary race for senator. Before the 2016 election, Vance criticized Trump and called him, quote, “cultural heroin.” But since then, like so many other Republicans who wants to be in power, he decided that cultural heroin is actually awesome.


Josie Duffy Rice: Isn’t that convenient? Suddenly, you need something from Donald Trump, and he seems pretty great. J.D. Vance: No ethics, no shame. It should be his campaign slogan. Indicating that they came away with a very different interpretation of the Pythagorean theorem than the rest of us did, Florida officials from the Department of Education said they had rejected 54 math textbooks from next year’s school curriculum, citing references to critical race theory as one of the motivating factors. Educators submitted a total of 132 textbooks. The Education Department also listed quote, “inclusions of Common Core and the unsolicited addition of social emotional learning in mathematics” as reasons for rejecting textbooks, but didn’t provide any examples in a press release last Friday. Florida banned the teaching of critical race theory last summer and prohibited quote, “theories that distort historical events.” That ban seems to imply that there is just one version of history, and if that were true, I would like that version to reflect that Florida officials are stupid and racist. Florida’s square Governor Ron DeSantis said of his department’s action quote, “It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of Common Core and indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially bizarrely for elementary school students.” Again, there is no evidence anywhere that writers of math textbooks slipped in race essentialism next to multiplication tables. Ron DeSantis is just asking us to take his word for it, a request that is far more offensive than anything students are learning about in schools.


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, I don’t even know how you include critical race theory in a math textbook.


Josie Duffy Rice: No.


Tre’vell Anderson: And so all of this is super questionable.


Josie Duffy Rice: I feel like it’s like the pictures that they have in math textbooks of like two kids playing hopscotch. It’s like maybe two of them were Black. I don’t know. Like, I literally don’t even understand what any of this, I don’t even get it.


Tre’vell Anderson: It doesn’t make much sense. But you know, no offense, but Florida hardly ever makes sense.


Josie Duffy Rice: Really, truly. And you know that if it were really bad, like they would have put the examples in the press release.


Tre’vell Anderson: Right.


Josie Duffy Rice: But instead, they were like, No, it was just like, Trust us.


Tre’vell Anderson: Right.


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s crazy.


Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, get those taxes in, and tell your friends to listen.


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading, and not just banned math textbooks like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter, so check it out and subscribe at I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson.


[together] And keep looking for your 1099 WAD!


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes! You got to get that tax break, OK, honey?


Josie Duffy Rice: Get it. If you find that form, you actually don’t have to pay taxes at all.


Tre’vell Anderson: Now everyone’s looking for it.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.


Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.