Many states that allow executions by lethal injection place limits on the viewing of the inmate prior to the final act. The general policy in most states, including Idaho, is to bar witnesses from viewing an inmate being brought into the execution chamber, strapped onto the table and injected with IV’s in his or her arms.
The news organizations claim that reporters must be permitted to view executions from the first moments the process begins to the last breath of an inmates’ life. This stems from the reporters’ desire to accurately report the news events and any potential complications in the execution process to the public.
On Thursday, May 24th, 2012, U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge ordered mediation between Idaho prison officials and the news organizations. This order occurred two days after the Associated Press and sixteen other news organizations filed a lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks to force the Idaho Department of Correction to allow witnesses, including the media, to view the execution process from the beginning to the end.
The order from the federal judge requires the parties to commence nonbinding mediation on or before June 1, 2012. The matter is being supervised by Magistrate Judge Candy Dale.
The other parties that joined the Associated Press in the lawsuit as plaintiffs include: the Idaho Statesman, The Times-News, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Spokesman-Review, Boise Weekly, The Idaho Press Club, Idahoans for Openness in Government, Pioneer Newspapers, Idaho State Journal, and Idaho Press Tribune.
This lawsuit stems from the 2002 San Francisco federal appeals court ruling that held that witnesses should be permitted to view executions from the time the condemned enters the chamber until their final heartbeat. Thus far, only California and Nevada have followed the case out of nine possible states under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Nevada changed its policy after news organizations challenged the state government’s process for executions. Currently, Idaho, Arizona, Washington and Montana bar witnesses from viewing the first stages of the lethal injection process.
In lawsuits filed by death row inmates in other jurisdictions, a challenge has been raised on the issues of the proper training of execution staff and the effectiveness of the lethal cocktail used in the the execution procedure.