First Amendment

Journalists Sue for Access to Entire Executions in Idaho; Was 9th Circuit Ignored?


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Are five Western states ignoring a 2002 appeals court ruling requiring entire executions to be open to witnesses?

The answer is yes, according to a review by the Associated Press, which has joined with 16 other news organizations to file suit for access in Idaho. The suit claims the media has a First Amendment right to witness the entire procedure and report on any complications.

AP says Idaho and four other states have failed to follow the 2002 ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They are: Arizona, Washington, Montana and Nevada. The five states have executed 15 inmates through lethal injection since the ruling, and each time half the procedure was shielded from witnesses, the story says.

In November, Idaho officials barred reporters from viewing the first part of the execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades, when he was strapped to the execution table and IVs were inserted into his arms, the Associated Press reports in a separate story on the lawsuit.

State officials have said the closed access at the beginning of executions is needed to protect the anonymity of executioners, and the 2002 case did not apply because it focused on unique California procedures.

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