Court Finds No 1st Amendment Right to Witness Full Execution
Posted Jan 11, 2008 7:46 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
A federal judge in Arkansas has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of journalists seeking access to report all stages of the execution process.
Noting that state law provides that executions are private rather than public events and that only one federal appeals court has recognized a public right of access under the First Amendment, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright determined the state Department of Correction's current procedures to be appropriate, reports the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
"Under the current process, prison officials open a curtain between the execution chamber and a viewing room only after the condemned inmate is strapped to a gurney and the lethal injection lines inserted," the newspaper recounts.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on behalf of the Arkansas Times and other plaintiffs, and ACLU staff attorney Holly Dickson says they are considering their options including a possible appeal.