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Charleston Diocese issues statement on temporary stay of execution for Richard Moore

The Diocese of Charleston has again spoken out in support of clemency for South Carolina's Richard Moore, who was granted a stay of execution on Wednesday.

(Trent Nelson/Associated Press)

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Diocese of Charleston has released a statement on the South Carolina Supreme Court’s issuance Wednesday of a temporary stay in the case of Richard Moore, an African American scheduled to be executed on April 29th.

His would be the first execution in the state in more than a decade, and the first since the state legislature voted in May 2021 to approve the option of execution by firing squad—the method Moore chose last Friday.

“We were pleased to learn that the South Carolina Supreme Court has temporarily stayed the execution of Richard Moore,” the diocese said on Wednesday.

“We hope the justices will make the same decision regarding the execution of Brad Keith Sigmon, who is now scheduled to die on May 13.”

The diocese, due to install Bishop-elect Jacques Fabre, CS as its first-ever Black ordinary on the same day as Sigmon’s current execution date, previously issued a statement on April 8th concerning Moore’s case.

“Mr. Moore must choose his means of execution—between the firing squad and electric chair. This is modern-day barbarism,” officials said then.

“We beseech the state of South Carolina to commute Moore’s death sentence and conduct a meaningful review of his case.”

The diocese joins various Catholic organizations in opposing the death penalty in South Carolina, including Catholic Mobilizing Network, which is actively petitioning South Carolina governor Henry McMaster to grant clemency for Moore.

Moore, who was sentenced to death for the murder of convenience store clerk James Mahoney in 1999, has been on death row since 2001. His execution was originally scheduled for the next year, but was delayed by a series of appeals and, in recent years, by the state’s purported inability to obtain the necessary drugs for a lethal injection.

Moore’s most recent legal challenges argue, like the Charleston diocese, that the state’s current methods of execution—including the electric chair—are “barbaric”. Lawyers for Moore and Sigmon also argue that the state’s claims to be unable to obtain drugs for lethal injection are spurious, given that other states have been able to do so recently (including both states which have executed inmates this year).

Besides South Carolina, only Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Utah sanction execution by firing squad—with the latter two states having introduced (or re-introduced) the method within the past 7 years. Moore’s case would be its first official use in South Carolina’s history.

The news comes as state-level executions resume across the country, with three having occurred so far, including two in Oklahoma. Both Texas and Tennessee are scheduled to execute inmates later today.

Concerning the delay of Moore’s execution in South Carolina, the state’s supreme court is expected to release a more detailed order later today. For the Charleston Diocese, commutation remains the desired outcome.

“Every person is created in the likeness of God; their lives should be protected from the time of conception until natural death,” their statement reads.

“Justice is not restored when another person is killed; therefore, we pray that the court will commute both men’s death sentences.”

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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