One of the foremost critics of the death penalty had some harsh words for South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster Monday.
Sister Helen Prejean didn’t mince words, calling out McMaster after his news conference announcing that South Carolina’s first scheduled execution in six years will not be carried out.
Prejean said the planned execution of death row inmate Bobby Wayne Stone, announced Nov. 17, was a political stunt orchestrated by McMaster, who spoke to the media while standing in front of South Carolina’s death row.
Stone’s execution will not be carried out on Dec. 1 as planned because S.C. does not have the drugs necessary to perform a lethal injection. McMaster was joined by S.C. Corrections Director Bryan Stirling at the news conference to make this announcement, something Prejean saw as a charade.
The nun, whose best-selling book “Dead Man Walking,” was turned into an award-winning movie, posted as much on Twitter.
“Let’s get this straight: South Carolina scheduled an execution for December 1st, all the while knowing that the state doesn’t have any drugs to carry it out. This is basically a mock execution, recognized worldwide as a form of torture,” Prejean tweeted.
The lethal injection cocktail requires three drugs – pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride – all of which the state does not have, according to Stirling. He said the drugs are hard to come by because drug companies do not want to be named publicly for providing drugs for executions, fearing backlash.
McMaster and Stirling said the companies seek anonymity and encouraged lawmakers to pass a law that would make the source of the drugs secret. McMaster said the companies would not be named in subpoenas or public record’s requests.
“Here we are at a dead stop and we can’t do anything about it unless our Legislature passes the shield law,” McMaster said.
Prejean said that ulterior motive was the true reason Stone was scheduled for execution last week. He was a political pawn.
“S. Carolina Gov. @henrymcmaster used this situation to argue for new execution secrecy laws,” Prejean tweeted. “Governor, the fact that you all scheduled an execution without a way to carry it out is a pretty strong argument for more transparency, not less.”
Stone, 52, has been on death row for 20 years, convicted of murder in the 1996 slaying of Sumter County sheriff’s Sgt. Charlie Kubala, who was shot twice.
Stone has acknowledged he shot Kubala as the officer responded to a call in February 1996, but said the shooting was accidental.
There’s no evidence that Stone was wrongly convicted, but flaws in the judicial system are one of the reasons Prejean advocates against the use of the death penalty. She says the death penalty fails to work as a deterrent, isn’t a cost-effective solution and often fails to offer closure to families of victims.
It’s a crusade she has been on for four decades, since meeting Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of two teenagers, sentenced to die in the electric chair of Louisiana’s Angola State Prison.
Upon Sonnier’s request, Prejean repeatedly visited him as his spiritual advisor. In doing so, her eyes were opened to the execution process. Prejean turned her experiences into a book, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty, that was number one on The New York Times Best Seller List for 31 weeks.
The book was developed into a major motion picture starring Susan Sarandon as Prejean and Sean Penn as a death row inmate. The movie received four Oscar nominations, including one for Sarandon who won the Academy Award for Best Actress.
According to her website, Prejean has witnessed five executions in Louisiana and continues to lecture, in addition to organizing and writing about the death penalty. She still counsels death row inmates, as well as the families of murder victims.
It is through this work that Prejean has formed strong opposition to the death penalty. She continued to share her views Monday on Twitter, when she reasoned about its perils.
“The death penalty is a deeply emotional issue, but a few things become clear when we look beyond emotion to the facts: no measurable deterrence, more expensive than life sentences, doesn’t really help victims’ families heal, and innocents have been executed.”
Staff writer Maayan Schechter contributed to this story.