'Our hearts were in disbelief' - Federal judge's stay of execution not only obstacle in Stone's case

Obtaining drugs needed for lethal injection an ‘unscalable wall’

Bobby Wayne Stone listens as Third Circuit Judge Howard P. King talks with prospective jurors during his resentencing trial in 2005 at Sumter County Courthouse. Stone was convicted of the murder of Sgt. Charles Kubala.
Bobby Wayne Stone listens as Third Circuit Judge Howard P. King talks with prospective jurors during his resentencing trial in 2005 at Sumter County Courthouse. Stone was convicted of the murder of Sgt. Charles Kubala.
SUMTER ITEM FILE PHOTO
Posted

The Dec. 1 execution of Bobby Wayne Stone, 52, who was sentenced to death for killing a Sumter County sergeant in 1996, has been delayed in response to a court order from his attorneys, but the order was not the only thing keeping what would be the first execution in South Carolina in six years from going through.

The fate of the execution was already uncertain because the state does not possess one of the three drugs needed for the lethal injection.

U.S. District Court Judge Mary Geiger Lewis granted the stay of execution after noting Stone's attorneys filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus - a court order requiring an imprisoning agency to prove that a person's detainment is justified.

Stone was convicted in 1997 of killing Sgt. Charlie Kubala, 32, of Sumter County Sheriff's Office on Feb. 26, 1996, when Kubala responded to a call about a suspicious person at a residence on Taylor Street off Boulevard Road.

"The shooting was unprovoked," Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis said. "That's why I think the penalty is justified."

Dennis said multiple officers called him after the state Department of Corrections announced the execution date, saying that justice would finally be served.

However, many of those officers were upset to learn that the execution may have been delayed for another reason, had the federal judge not granted the stay of execution.

South Carolina does not have all three drugs needed to administer an execution by lethal injection: pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

The state's supply of pentobarbital expired in 2013, and attempts to obtain the drug have failed because drug companies do not want the public to know the drugs are being provided for executions, according to The Associated Press.

This problem is made even more frustrating for some because states such as Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas have "shield laws" that protect the identities of such drug companies.

Dennis said he understands the position of the those companies and their priority to protect themselves.

The sheriff's issue instead lies with the fact that justice meets a seemingly unscalable wall when it comes to the death penalty in this state.

Why was a shield law not passed prior to scheduling the execution, Dennis asked. The jury and judge have spoken, but Kubala's family continues to go on with the injustice, he said.

Dennis said he will advocate for a law to protect the identity of the businesses to ensure that other families do not face the same injustice.

"If the state has the death penalty, we should have looked into this years ago," he said. "The law should have already been passed."

Despite the standstill, Dennis said he does not blame America's justice system, which he said is the greatest in the world.

Kubala was married with two children - who were 6 and 11 at the time - when he was killed.

His mother, Peggy Kubala, could not be reached for comment before press time.

If the shooting had not happened, Dennis said he is certain the sergeant would have gone farther in the agency.

Stone took that away from him, and he took Kubala away from his family, he said.

Dennis said he was one of the deputies who helped search for Stone after the shooting.

"Our hearts were in disbelief because one of our own was gunned down," he said.

Kubala - who was wearing a bulletproof vest - was shot in the ear and collarbone, and was later pronounced dead at Tuomey Regional Medical Center.

Stone was sentenced to 30 years for first-degree burglary and five years for possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime in 1996.

Stone - who was 31 at the time - testified in court that his .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol accidentally went off when he turned around after hearing a man yelling at him from the yard of the Taylor Street residence. Kubala was shot twice.