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South Carolina Prison Officials Allegedly Forced to be Executioners

On December 18, 2007, Ira Baxley and Terry Bracey, former South Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC) officials with 22 and 23 years of service, respectively, filed suit in federal court against DOC Director Jon Ozmint and Director of Operations Robert Ward, claiming they were forced to perform executions against their will.

Baxley, a major and SWAT team leader, said he executed eight prisoners and participated in two other executions. Bracey was a major in charge of the DOC’s Rapid Response Team, which is used for emergencies and shakedowns. He likewise claimed to have involuntarily executed prisoners. The executions were by electrocution and lethal injection.

Both men alleged they were not properly trained and not given any counseling. They said the executioner position was supposed to be voluntary, but their rank, extra pay and status as heads of special units were at risk had they refused to perform executions. After Baxley notified Director Ozmint that he did not want to be “forced to be an executioner against his well,” he was told if “he did not like it, he could transfer.”

Of course Baxley and Bracey could have refused or transferred to different DOC job positions, but apparently their prestigious rank and salaries outweighed any moral objections they had to putting prisoners to death.

The two men also claimed that they reported former Director of Security Michael Sheedy for displaying and transmitting porn on a state-owned computer. Baxley stated that Ward and Ozmint then retaliated against him. He is suing for $1 million in damages, while Bracey is suing for $5 million. They allegedly suffered shock, humiliation, embarrassment, lowered quality of life and reduced earning potential.

“They’re still having extreme difficulties,” said their attorney, Lewis Cromer. “They’re doing the best they can to cope with the situation and trying to move on with their lives.” The prisoners they executed, however, have no lives to move on with.

The lawsuits, which are still pending, have been consolidated for discovery purposes only. See: Baxley v. Ozmint, U.S.D.C. (D. SC), Case No. 3:07-cv-04067-CMC, and Bracey v. Ward, U.S.D.C. (D. SC), Case No. 3:07-cv-04068-CMC.


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Related legal cases

Baxley v. Ozmint

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Bracey v. Ward

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