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The executions of two inmates have been blocked by a US court, who ruled they must get the choice to die by firing squad.

The South Carolina supreme court halted the executions of Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens, ruling that officials needed to put together a firing squad to give them the option of how to be killed.

Sigmon, 63, was scheduled to be executed using the electric chair on Friday, the first use of capital punishment in the state in a decade.

Brad Sigmon has been on death row since 2002, convicted of murdering his girlfriend's parents with a baseball bat. Pic AP
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Sigmon was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend’s parents with a baseball bat. Pic AP

He was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend’s parents with a baseball bat in 2002.

Owen’s electric chair execution was set for 25 June, having been convicted of murdering a store worker during a robbery in 1999.

The state recently changed its capital punishment law to address a shortage of lethal injection drugs.

Freddie Owens was convicted of murder during a robbery in 1999. Pic AP
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Freddie Owens was convicted of murder during a robbery in 1999. Pic AP

It now forces death row inmates to choose between electrocution or firing squad if the drugs are unavailable.

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The law aimed to restart the state’s executions after a 10-year pause caused by its inability to produce the lethal injection.

Prisons officials had previously said they could not get hold of the drugs and had yet to put together a firing squad, leaving the 109-year-old electric chair as the only option.

“The department is moving ahead with creating policies and procedures for a firing squad,” said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Chrysti Shain after the court ruling.

“We are looking to other states for guidance through this process. We will notify the court when a firing squad becomes an option for executions.”

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Lawyers for the men said electrocution was cruel and unusual and that the new law moves the state toward less humane execution methods.

They said the men had the right to die by lethal injection – the method both chose – and that the state hadn’t exhausted all methods to acquire the drugs.

Lawyers for the state maintained that prison officials were simply carrying out the law and that the US Supreme Court had never found electrocution to be unconstitutional.

South Carolina is one of eight states to still use the electric chair and four to allow a firing squad, according to the Washington-based non-profit Death Penalty Information Center.

South Carolina’s last execution took place in 2011 and its batch of lethal injection drugs expired two years later.

There are 37 men on the state’s death row.

Death penalty opponents called for South Carolina to scrap capital punishment altogether.

Abraham Bonowitz, director of the national group Death Penalty Action, said he was grateful the execution plans were blocked but felt a bigger change was needed.

“It’s always good news when executions are put on hold, but if the conversation is only about how we kill our prisoners, rather than if the state should have this power, something is very, very wrong,” he said.

“All of this is unnecessary and a costly waste of taxpayer dollars that could be better supporting the needs of all victims of violent crime.”

At a rally on Wednesday, people marked the anniversary of the electrocution of 14-year-old George Stinney, the youngest person executed in America in the 20th century.

Stinney was still a teenager when he was sent to South Carolina’s electric chair after a one-day trial in 1944 in connection with the killings of two white girls.

A judge threw out the black teenager’s conviction in 2014.

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Boy, 10, ‘shot mother dead after she refused to buy him a virtual reality headset’

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Boy, 10, 'shot mother dead after she refused to buy him a virtual reality headset'

A 10-year-old boy allegedly shot and killed his mother because she would not buy him a virtual reality headset.

The boy at first claimed the shooting was an accident, but later said he intentionally aimed at his mother.

He is said to have logged into her Amazon account and ordered a headset the morning after she died, according to his aunt and sister, who claim he has not cried or showed any remorse.

The boy has been charged as an adult with first-degree reckless homicide and is in juvenile detention.

The incident happened just before 7am on 21 November in the city of Milwaukee in Wisconsin.

State law requires children as young as 10 to be charged as adults for certain serious crimes, but lawyers can request the case is moved to a juvenile court.

One of the boy’s lawyers, Angela Cunningham, said: “This is an absolute family tragedy.

“I don’t think anybody would deny or disagree with that… the adult system is absolutely ill-equipped to address the needs of a 10-year-old child.”

The boy is said to have told officers he got the gun from his mother’s bedroom and went down to the basement where she was doing laundry, according to criminal charges seen by the Journal Sentinel, a local newspaper.

Milwaukee Police initially said that the boy was “playing” with the gun when it fired, fatally injuring his mother.

Read more from the US:
William and Kate booed at basketball game
Analysis: America’s problem with guns stands alone
Country star dies hours after getting married

The force said the incident would be referred to the Milwaukee County District Attorney General’s Office for review.

They also reminded the public to “keep firearms secured with a gunlock and out of the reach of children”.

A day after the incident, however, concerned relatives called the police.

History of ‘disturbing behaviour’

The boy is said to have a history of “disturbing behaviour”, including swinging a puppy around by its tail when he was four.

His family told police he filled a balloon with flammable liquid and set it alight, causing an explosion that burned furniture and the carpet.

When questioned by his family, the boy said he hears imaginary people talking to him.

He also physically attacked his seven-year-old cousin on the day of the shooting.

In a second interview with police, he said he tried shooting a wall to “scare her” when she walked in front of him and was wounded, according to the charge sheet.

He also told them he took the gun because his mother woke him up 30 minutes earlier than usual, at 6am, that day.

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Jake Flint: US country star, 37, dies just hours after getting married

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Jake Flint: US country star, 37, dies just hours after getting married

US country music star Jake Flint has died unexpectedly at the age of 37, just hours after getting married.

The Oklahoma-based singer/songwriter died in his sleep after he tied the knot with wife Brenda on Saturday.

His heartbroken bride posted on Facebook: “We should be going through wedding photos but instead, I have to pick out clothes to bury my husband in.

“People aren’t meant to feel this much pain.

“My heart is gone and I just really need him to come back.

“I can’t take much more. I need him here.”

She also shared a picture of the couple dancing after their nuptials on Facebook, writing “I don’t understand.”

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Mr Flint’s publicist, Clif Doyal, said the musician died in his sleep in the early hours of the morning on Sunday, 27 November.

“Flint had exchanged wedding vows with Brenda Wilson on Saturday. He was 37.

“No official cause of death has been determined.”

In a statement shared by Mr Doyal, Mr Flint’s family said they were “broken” over the “tragic loss” of their beloved son, brother, uncle and partner, known to them as Jacob.

“He valued his family, friendships and living life to the fullest, which was evident in his songwriting.

“Every person who knew him has a story of his wit, charm, talent and compassion.

“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support and the many beautiful tributes that have been shared about the impact Jacob had on many lives.

“While we grieve what we know could have been, we are grateful that his talent and love live on in his songs.”

A service for Mr Flint will take place on Monday at Cedar Point Church in Claremore, Oklahoma.

Instead of flowers, the family have requested donations to the Red Dirt Relief Fund, an organisation which provides emergency assistance funding grants to musicians in need.

A fundraising campaign has also been launched to raise money for the family of Mr Flint, described as a “great man in our music community.”

The musician was in the middle of a multi-state tour and had been scheduled to perform in Claremore on Friday.

His former manager, Brenda Cline, said she “loved him much like a son”, hailing him as the “funniest, most hilarious, hardest working, dedicated artist I have ever worked with in my career.”

“Jake has a million friends and I’m not sure how everyone will cope with this tragic loss,” she wrote on Facebook.

“This is going to be incredibly difficult for so many. We love you Jake and in our hearts forever.”

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William and Kate met by chants of ‘USA, USA’ and pockets of booing as race row clouds visit

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William and Kate met by chants of 'USA, USA' and pockets of booing as race row clouds visit

The Prince and Princess of Wales’ first overseas trip since the Queen’s death has been overshadowed by controversy at home.

William and Kate arrived in Boston yesterday for a three-day visit before the Earthshot Prize, the prince’s environmental awards ceremony, on Friday.

Hours earlier, the prince’s godmother resigned from her duties at Buckingham Palace after repeatedly asking a black visitor “where she really came from”.

Ngozi Fulani, CEO of Sistah Space
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Ngozi Fulani
Lady Susan Hussey
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Lady Susan Hussey

A Kensington Palace spokesman who spoke to William before he boarded his flight said Lady Susan Hussey’s comments were “unacceptable” and that “racism has no place in our society”.

He added that Lady Hussey, 83, was right to have stepped aside from her honorary role as Lady of the Household with immediate effect.

The monarchy has faced allegations of institutional racism since Ngozi Fulani, a British-born charity boss, revealed what had happened at an event in Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.

Lady Hussey, who served as the Queen’s lady in waiting for more than 60 years, has offered her “profound apologies for the hurt caused”.

William focused on the Earthshot Prize as he greeted crowds in Boston, saying: “We are both looking forward to spending the next few days learning about the innovative ways the people of Massachusetts are tackling climate change.”

The White House has confirmed that the royal couple are set to meet Joe Biden, the president, later this week.

William and Kate sat courtside to watch an NBA game and were booed by small pockets of the crowd around the stadium when they were introduced by an announcer and shown on the big screen.

At one point, some fans in the crowd could be heard loudly cheering “USA, USA” when the couple appeared on the screens in the centre above the court.

File photo dated 29/11/2022 of Ngozi Fulani (centre left) at a reception at Buckingham Palace, London. The prominent black advocate for survivors of domestic abuse has revealed how she was repeatedly asked by a member of the Buckingham Palace household at the Queen Consort's reception where she "really came from". Issue date: Wednesday November 30, 2022.
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Ngozi Fulani, left, and the Queen Consort at the palace on Tuesday

Analysis: William and Kate will work hard to win back America

Laura Bundock

Royal correspondent

@laurabundock

The timing could not be worse.

William and Kate haven’t been to the US for eight years, a time period that has seen monumental change for the monarchy.

It’s also their first time in America since Prince Harry and Meghan left Britain for California.

“What’s been unfolding in Britain over the past 24 hours provides a really prime opportunity for William and Kate,” said Arianne Chernock, Professor of British History at Boston University. “If they were to come out with their own public statement in Boston that would really resonate with the American public.”

This is a chance for them to rebuild royal relations in America.

The fallout from Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah, watched by millions around the world, damaged the image of the Royal Family.

This latest racism row will do little to repair that, especially in the US.

“This was not the sort of thing they wanted happening right at the start of their trip,” said Washington Post royal columnist Autumn Brewington. “This will be seen by many people as substantiating things that Meghan and Harry have said both in terms of perhaps the comments that were made to them, and the palace’s hesitation to act on things that were said to them.”

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will make more headlines soon with their impending Netflix series, and the release of Harry’s much-hyped memoir.

The Prince and Princess of Wales’ visit was supposed to help put the Royal Family back on the front foot in the US.

It also gives them a world stage to champion causes they care about.

Their engagements in Boston are based around climate change, vulnerable young people, sport and the early years.

“This is a really important moment for the couple to reset basically and indicate where the royal family is going to be in the years to come,” said Prof Chernock.

Boston has a deep history with the Royal Family, it was the birthplace of the American revolution, and there remains a fascination with the British monarchy.

Expect to see the Prince and Princess of Wales working hard to win back America.

Charity boss reacts to resignation

Buckingham Palace said yesterday that it was taking the incident “extremely seriously” and described Lady Hussey’s comments as “unacceptable and deeply regrettable”.

Ms Fulani works as an advocate for survivors of domestic abuse and described the exchange as a “violation”.

Speaking to LBC, the chief executive of Sistah Space said “nobody from the palace has spoken to me”, but she would be “happy to have a conversation to bring about a positive solution”.

Reflecting further, she said: “To be honest I wish that the lady could be spoken to and know the damage she has caused and preferably not be front-facing.

“But for her to resign, that has nothing to do with me. I don’t feel good about that. She’s an elder and in my culture we respect elders.

“Conversations need to be had with the relevant people so this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”

Last year, the Duchess of Sussex claimed that a member of the royal household raised concerns about what colour skin her son Archie would have before he was born.

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Hussey ‘interrogated’ Fulani – witness

Royals must ‘step up’

Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, who was standing next to Ms Fulani and witnessed the exchange, said she was “stunned”.

“It was really uncomfortable. If Ngozi was a white woman there is no way that line of questioning would have taken place. It’s not what you expect,” she told Sky News.

“We weren’t gate crashers, but we were made to feel almost like trespassers.”

Asked if she was reassured by Lady Hussey stepping down and apologising, she said no – and that the royals need to “step up” and acknowledge that “institutional racism is part of the culture”.

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