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June 9, 2012

Ninth Circuit panel grants injunction to enable media to witness full Idaho execution

This AP article, headlined "Court rules for news groups in execution case," reports on a notable First Amendment ruling by a Ninth Circuit panel. Here are the basics:

A federal appeals court sided with The Associated Press and 16 other news organizations Friday in ruling that witnesses should have full viewing access to Idaho's upcoming execution. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the decision a day after hearing arguments in a lawsuit from the news groups seeking to change Idaho's protocol, saying it's unconstitutionally restrictive.

The case aims to strike down a portion of Idaho's regulations that prevent witnesses - including reporters acting as representatives of the public - from watching executions until after catheters have been inserted into the veins of death row inmates.

The lawsuit comes as lethal injections have drawn greater scrutiny, from whether the drugs are effective to whether the execution personnel are properly trained. It's unclear how the ruling will affect the scheduled execution next week of Idaho death row inmate Richard Leavitt.

A federal judge Tuesday denied a request from the news groups seeking to prevent Leavitt's execution without the changes. The news organizations appealed that ruling.

The 9th Circuit, during arguments Thursday, noted that the federal court had already ruled in a 2002 California case that every aspect of an execution should be open to witnesses, from the moment the condemned enters the death chamber to the final heartbeat....

"Nearly a decade ago, we held in the clearest possible terms that `the public enjoys a First Amendment right to view executions from the moment the condemned is escorted into the execution chamber," the judges said in their ruling Friday. "The State of Idaho has had ample opportunity for the past decade to adopt an execution procedure that reflects this settled law."

The Ninth Circuit's full ruling is available at this link.

June 9, 2012 at 09:49 AM | Permalink


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Hmmmm. So the state has to give access to its grounds in order to let reporters see an execution? Who knew?

Posted by: federalist | Jun 9, 2012 9:54:43 AM

The case a decade ago that this one relies on quoted the USSC:

“the media have no special right of access . . . different from or greater than that accorded the public generally" [Houchins v. KQED]

The previous ruling noted the historical practice of allowing members of the public to view executions from start to finish. This along with the value of having them there to view the proceedings to view it for the public at large and report any problems (or lack thereof) justified the access.

If the whole procedure suddenly was fully private, with no access from the public, a different calculus might need to be made. But, it isn't.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 10, 2012 11:05:50 AM

Media attention is highly rewarding, and will induce many murders to get it. Why do so many condemned people get marriage proposals, and have so many female fans? Media attention is an aphrodisiac to these ladies. The condemned will get more dates than he did on the outside. Some of the condemned are reprehensible, and will use the media attention to mock the families of their victims.

The death penalty should be carried out in secret.

Additional copy cat murders will be the entirely foreseeable fault of the Ninth Circuit. These sick lawyers have blood on their hands.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 10, 2012 9:51:20 PM

Hmmmmm. So because executions were historically public, a lack of public access now is somehow a First Amendment violation? Wow.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 11, 2012 4:05:01 PM

I keep trying to find the "public execution" clause in the 5th Amendment, or the "media access to execution" clause in the 1st. Is my copy of the Constitution defective? I can't seem to find them . . .

Posted by: I keep looking | Jun 14, 2012 2:15:37 AM

I know everyone does worng and desrves punishment but you have to be a sick person yourself to want to watch someone die. I say keep it personal or for the familys vitctimes. They should be the only people to see it if they wish.

Posted by: dildo | Aug 3, 2012 7:08:58 PM

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