COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A bill in the State House that would allow more use of the electric chair for executions is gaining traction in the Senate.
The measure was passed out of a Senate committee on Thursday and will move to the full Senate floor to be debated. The bill would allow the chair to be used as a backup method to lethal injection since prisons lack the drugs necessary for it now.
Fathers of two of killer Todd Kohlhepp's victims sat-in on the meeting, watching and waiting intently.
"It's hard, hard to lose a child. It's not supposed to happen that way," Chuck Carver said, tearfully.
Carver lost his son, Charlie Carver, in 2016. Carver says the prosecutor would have prosecuted Kohlhepp for death, had lethal injection drugs been available to South Carolina prisons.
"I was disappointed, hurt, because in my opinion, he deserved to die," Carver said.
The electric chair bill was voted forward. Then, another victim was recognized in the meeting audience.
Captain Robert Johnson is a former corrections officer. Johnson says he was nearly killed by a murder for hire plot in 2010—organized by an inmate's cellphone. He backs another bill, to strengthen penalties on contraband violators. That includes inmates, and people outside working to smuggle things in, and staff.
"They need to be held accountable for bringing in…I really call them weapons of mass destruction. You're giving inmates the opportunity to do things beyond their capability when they're locked up," Johnson said. "It will not hurt the inmates. But to people who don't have time who are on the outside, it may be a deterrent to them and staff members if they know they're going to get serious time and not just get a pat on the hand."
But the bill for stricter penalties on contraband smugglers stalled. One senator, Margie Bright-Matthews (D- Colleton), wants the punishments specified in writing, rather than all classified as a felony. She says it's to prevent violators from bonding-out and avoiding time.
"What was more important was to put more stringent policies in place, or penalties in place, where if you violated it, you're going to jail for…one year," she said.
Bright-Matthews is concerned the bill would group contraband offenders together with other murderers and courts will get so back-logged, the violator will bond-out or take probation.
A third bill, to conceal the identities of lethal drug providers, also failed to make it out of that committee. Bright-Matthews wants some exemptions, so that in case an execution is botched, people can find out what happened and who was involved.
"If something went wrong regarding an execution then it shields the State of South Carolina, it shields the court. It shields the citizens from finding out what happened," she said.
The group that represents inmates is opposed to that bill, too.
"We oppose that bill because it would remove transparency and accountability from the death penalty," Justice 360's Lindsey Vann said.