[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----ARK., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jul 26 21:05:14 CDT 2007
ACLU of Arkansas Tells Prison: "Keep Curtains Open During Executions"
ACLU Sues on Behalf of Journalists and Newspaper to Open Entire Execution
Procedure to Public Viewing
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed a lawsuit today in
federal court in Pine Bluff demanding that the Arkansas Department of
Correction allow those viewing executions to see the entire process from
the moment the condemned person is brought into the room until the moment
the body is taken out.
"America is an open society, and we do not carry on trials or carry out
executions in secret," said Rita Sklar, Executive Director of the ACLU of
Arkansas. "The freedom we treasure is based on the idea that the
government acts with the permission of the people, and not the other way
around. If we are going to give the state the power to execute people in
our name, we have a right and responsibility to see exactly what goes on."
The ACLU of Arkansas filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Northwest Arkansas
Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Arkansas Times,
Inc., and journalist Max Brantley. The ACLU contends that the First
Amendment compels a right of public viewing for all phases of a lethal
injection because the event is a matter of public concern and debate, and
"Because the First Amendment guarantees the public and the press a
qualified right of access to governmental proceedings . [preventing the
press and the public] ... from viewing the execution from beginning to end
violates their First Amendment right of access." The lawsuit asks the
Court to require that "all phases of the execution . . . be conducted in
full and open view of the assembled witnesses to that execution."
In Arkansas a limited number of people, including members of the media,
are allowed to witness state executions. Under current execution procedure
curtains in the execution chamber are opened only after the prisoner has
been strapped to a gurney and the intravenous tubes inserted into the
prisoner's veins. The curtains remain open while the poison is injected
and the prisoner dies, and then close again as technicians take out the
tubes and do whatever else is necessary to remove the body from the room.
The ACLU complaint describes the execution procedure in more detail:
"The [prison] does not allow the public and media witnesses to view an
execution in its entirety. Specifically, witnesses are not allowed to see
or hear the condemned take his final steps into the execution chamber; the
ADC personnel strapping the condemned prisoner to the gurney; immobilizing
his or her head; spreading his or her arms away from his or her body;
strapping the hands to the board; putting in place the leather
breastplate; placing the straps over the shoulders, waist, and thighs;
placing the leather shackles around the condemned's ankles; fastening to
the gurney, immobilizing the lower legs; inserting the two IV lines into
the condemned; attaching an electrocardiogram monitor; selecting alternate
IV insertion points; or the performance of more invasive or surgical
procedures such as [surgically opening a vein in the neck to insert the
tubing]. Further, microphones are not on during any of the execution
procedures, other than to give the condemned a chance for last words or
statements and to pronounce the condemned dead. Therefore, conversations
with the condemned, or exclamations or statements by the condemned during
the execution process cannot be heard."
"Hiding from public view the manner in which the government puts people to
death serves no one," said ACLU cooperating attorney Jim Lingle, "and
limits informed public debate. If our method of execution is humane, it
must be open so that it will remain humane. If it is not humane, it must
be open so that it can be changed."
The complaint is available online at:
Jeffrey L. Kirchmeier, Dead Innocent: The Death Penalty Abolitionist
Search for a Wrongful Execution,
42 Tulsa L. Rev. 403 (2006)
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1002103 by clicking
on go to Download Document, in the upper left side of the page.
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