Bobby Wayne Stone was scheduled for execution on December 1 when South Carolina’s Supreme Court set the date and recently notified the state’s Department of Corrections (DOC). On November 1, Judge Mary Geiger Lewis, U.S. District Court, issued a stay of execution for a capital punishment that would not have taken place anyway on the date that the state’s high court specified, according to the Sumter Item and VICE News.

Judge Lewis granted the hold on carrying out Stone’s capital punishment after his attorneys presented a writ of habeas corpus, requesting the court to determine whether Stone has been rightfully detained, the Item noted.

The 52-year-old death row inmate admitted to shooting and killing Sumter County Sheriff’s Officer Charlie Kubala on February 26, 1996. Stone, however, stated that it was accidental.

Convicted cop killer on death row for 20 years and counting

In 1997, Stone was convicted of first-degree burglary and murder. He has spent the past 20 years of his life on death row. No one has been executed in the state in the last six years.

Kubala, who was 32 at the time of his death, responded to two calls about someone acting suspiciously outside a woman’s home in Sumter County. He was the first officer on-scene. Though the state’s highest court set Stone’s execution date, his death date was scheduled when South Carolina did not have the needed supply of drugs to carry out his capital punishment.

States without shield laws can’t obtain execution drugs

The state uses three drugs in its injection protocol: pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. In 2013, the state’s pentobarbital expired. Since that time, states have found it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to obtain drugs for carrying out executions.

Pharmaceutical companies and compound pharmacies do not want retribution from death penalty opponents for supplying the drugs. A handful of death penalty states do have shield laws that protect the names of suppliers from public disclosure. Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas each have a shield law in effect, while South Carolina does not.

South Carolina officials want legislators to pass laws protecting drug suppliers

South Carolina’s DOC director, Bryan Stirling, and Governor Henry McMaster are calling on legislators to enact a shield law during the next legislative session. The duo held a press conference on November 20. The governor said the state is “at a dead stop” when it comes to executions “unless and until” South Carolina lawmakers create a shield law, VICE News reported.

Regardless of the current status of such a law, however, Stone’s execution would not have taken place on December 1. Stirling and McMaster have not mentioned anything about the fact that Stone’s case has not been held to review in the federal judicial process.

Judge granting stay of execution was ‘expected’

Lindsey Vann is the executive director of the law firm that represents Stone, Justice 360. “Bryan Stirling,” according to Vann, “knew a stay would be issued by the court,” VICE noted. Robert Kittle is also a spokesman for South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, who acknowledged that the stay of execution issued by Judge Lewis was not a surprise. It was “expected,” VICE also reported.

Kier Weyble, Director of Death Penalty Litigation, Cornell Law School, weighed in as well on the doomed-from-the-start December execution of Stone. “From where I sit,” Weyble stated, “this looks like political opportunism,” according to VICE.

Law shielding pharmaceutical makers doesn't equal December execution

Even if the legislature could or would have enacted a shield law on-demand, it would not have altered the reality that Stone’s case has not been appealed at the federal level. “There was always going to be a stay entered,” Weyble further conveyed, and it relates to where the death row killer “is in the road of state and federal review,” VICE relayed.

Sheriff Anthony Dennis, Sumter County, said several officers called him following the DOC’s announcement that an execution date was set for Stone. The officers stated that “justice would finally be served,” according to the Sumter Item. Sheriff Dennis believes the death penalty for Stone is warranted.

“The shooting was unprovoked.”

Learning that Stone’s capital punishment was scheduled but won’t be carried out has left officers “upset,” the Item also reported. If Judge Lewis had not issued the stay of execution, not having the drugs needed for the death cocktail would have created a delay, in a similar fashion.

Sheriff highlights ‘injustice’ delivered to victim’s family

Sheriff Dennis wants to know why the shield law was not effected prior to the state’s Supreme Court scheduling the execution. He stated, additionally, that both the jury and judge spoke, and Stone was sentenced to death. However, the slain officer’s family “continues to go on with the injustice,” the sheriff told the Item.

South Carolina has the death penalty, Sheriff Dennis pointed out, adding, “we should have looked into this years ago,” the Item reported. He asserted that the shield law should have “already been passed.”