Article Image
Idaho Prison Officials and Reporters Entering Mediation over Execution Coverage

Tuesday, May, 29, 2012

In the state of Idaho, U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ordered mediation between prison officials and local news agencies regarding to what extent reporters are allowed to witness lethal injection executions. This was originally a lawsuit filed by over a dozen news agencies against the state, demanding they be allowed to witness entire executions from start to finish. This lawsuit essentially challenges the state's policy regarding such access.

The Policy Being Challenged, Necessitating Mediation Services


Idaho's policy regarding lethal injection is similar to most other states that utilize lethal injection as a form of execution. It essentially prohibits witnesses from viewing the first phases of the execution—from the inmate being brought to the execution chamber and bound to the table to the insertion of the needles into their arms. It is only after this is done that people are allowed to bear witness.


The basis used by these news agencies, which include Idaho Press Tribune, the Idaho State Journal, The Idaho Press Club and Idahoans for Openness in Government, is mostly based on a federal appeals court ruling from 2002. This decision allows witnesses to be able to watch executions from the entrance into the execution chamber, through all following phases until the convict is declared dead.

Why Civil Mediation for Full Access?


Some may question the motivations of the news agencies in this dispute. According to the news agencies, the lawsuit and resulting mediation is not meant to interfere with a scheduled execution on June 12 of Richard Leavitt, a convicted murderer. The intent, according to the plaintiffs, is to allow them to have full access so they can provide complete and accurate coverage of the events and any possible complications to the public.


On the flip side, some may wonder why the state would dispute the news agencies' demand for full access. According to representatives of the Idaho Department of Corrections, this policy is in place, despite the previously mentioned ruling about granting full access, to protect the anonymity of the members of the execution team. It would be all too easy for the convict's loved ones to take retribution out on the execution team if their identities were revealed.


Idaho was not alone in ignoring the 2002 full access ruling. Six other states do not follow the ruling—only 2 of the 9 state jurisdiction of the ruling are actually allowing full execution viewings.