Freddie Owens, South Carolina

 

Updated: Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The South Carolina Supreme Court has halted the executions of Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens. Both men were scheduled to be executed by electrocution, as no other execution method is viable in the state. South Carolina does not have drugs to carry out an execution by lethal injection, and the state cannot obtain the drugs in time.  Recently, lawmakers in South Carolina passed a bill that also permitted execution by firing squad, however the state does not, and never has, had a protocol in place to carry out an execution in such manner.  In its unanimous decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that corrections officials need to establish a firing squad protocol so that "the statutory right of inmates to elect the manner of their execution" is upheld.  

Updated: Monday, June 14, 2021

Freddie Eugene Owens is scheduled to be executed on Friday, June 25, 2021, at the Broad River Capital Punishment Facility, at the Broad River Correctional Institute, in Columbia, South Carolina. Forty-three-year-old Freddie is convicted of the murder 41-year-old Irene Grainger Graves on November 1, 1997, in Greenville, South Carolina. He has spent the last 18 years on death row in South Carolina.

Freddie had a sad childhood. He grew up in poverty and experienced much violence throughout his childhood. He witnessed his stepfather repeatedly chase his mother with a machete. Freddie’s grandmother spent time in prison after shooting another family member. Freddie spent time in a juvenile facility as a teen and underwent anger management. Freddie was allegedly abused and neglected while growing up.

Around 4 am on November 1, 1997, two masked gunmen entered a convenience store in Greenville, South Carolina. One gunmen went behind the counter, while another continued to point his gun at the clerk, Irene, from the customer side of the counter. Near the end of the robbery, the gunman’s hand jerks back the clerk falls. The robbery and murder was caught by four different cameras angles. It was the third robbery in the area in less than two days.

Freddie Owens was arrested a few days after the robbery and murder. An ex-girlfriend told the police that Owens had told her that he wanted to be the person who killed the most people in Greenville. Owens’ girlfriend at the time, testified that Owens told her he was the shooter.

 

Owens’ co-conspirator, Stephen Golden, was also arrested and charged. Golden pled guilty and testified that Owens was the shooter, and that Owens shot Irene because she said she could not open the safe. Two others who were with Owens the night of the robbery, and planned to carry out their own robbery at a Waffle House near the convenience store but ultimately did not, also testified that Owens confessed the shooting to Irene.

 

After being convicted of murder on January 15, 1999, Owens was returned to his cell for a mandatory 24 hour period before being sentenced. That night, Owens brutally beat and murdered his cell mate, Christopher Lee. Owens’ confessed and gave a statement to the police. Allegedly, Lee had told Owens that he had a cousin on the jury that convicted Owens, and that Owens was going to be sentenced to death. Owens has not been charged in Lee’s murder, as prosecutors have held charges in reserve, pending the outcome of Owens’ appeals for the sentence of death for the murder of Irene.

 

Owens’ death sentence was overturned twice, but reinstated each time.

 

Later appeals for Owens argued that he had brain damage in areas responsible for regulating emotions and behavior. Owens and his lawyers, along with help of medical professionals have argued that Owens should be granted clemency due to his brain damage.

 

This is not the first execution date for Owens. He was previously scheduled to be executed in 2008, however his execution was stayed by the Supreme Court of the United States over concerns that his constitutional rights were violated during his appeals. The issues was eventually resolved, allowing the state to pursue a new execution date.

 

South Carolina recently passed a new law allowing for execution by firing squad or electric chair, in addition to the current method of lethal injection. The law also makes the electric chair the default method of execution, whereas perviously the default method was lethal injection. South Carolina has not carried out an execution by lethal injection since 2011. They have struggled to find a source for their execution drugs, as the state does not have a secrecy law that would protect the identity of the supplier from becoming public knowledge. Owens and fellow inmate Brad Sigmon, are arguing that they cannot be executed by firing squad or electric chair, as they were sentenced to death under a law that made lethal injection the default method of execution.  Owens is also seeking to join in a lawsuit filed by Sigmon, in which Sigmon is arguing that South Carolina has not exhausted all possible methods of obtaining execution drugs.  In the request, Owens noted that allowing him to join Sigmon's lawsuit would save the courts time and money.

 

Circuit Court Judge Jocelyn Newman has issued a ruling that the scheduled executions of Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens can be carried out.  The men had filed a joint appeal seeking an injunction to halt their executions due to a new execution law forcing them to choose between a firing squad and electrocution.  In the appeal, the men argue that these two methods are less humane than lethal injection, which is also permissible under South Carolina law, however the state is currently unable to obtain execution drugs.  Additionally, the men argue that the new law is unconstitutional because they were sentenced to death under a law in which lethal injection was the default method.  The men are continuing their appeals in an attempt to halt their executions. In a separate lawsuit, Judge Robert Bryan Harwell also ruled against both inmates. Freddie and Brad were arguing that the electric chair is unconstitutional, as it violates their 8th Amendment rights, which protects against cruel and unusual punishment.  Judge Harwell ruled that their argument was unlikely to succeed in court and refused to grant an injunction halting the execution.

 

Pray for peace for the family of Irene Graves. Pray for strength for the family of Freddie. Pray that if Freddie is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Pray that Freddie may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.

 

 

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