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Arizona: Execution witnesses have First Amendment right to hear entire process, 9th Circuit rules

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A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that witnesses to Arizona executions have a First Amendment right to hear the entire execution process to help determine if executions are done “in a humane and lawful manner.”
The ruling comes 5 years after the last execution in Arizona ended up with the condemned inmate, Joseph Wood, gasping for almost two hours and in apparent agony behind soundproof glass.
A 3-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the claim, by seven death-row inmates and the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, that the ability to hear what’s happening in the execution room will foster a heightened level of transparency around the death penalty.

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“People might say, ‘That sounds so gory, why do you want to hear what’s happening in there?'” said Morgan Loew, an investigative reporter with CBS 5 in Arizona and the president of the First Amendment Coalition. “What we’re doing is fighting for more access to probably the most …

No firing squad for Mississippi's death row inmates

Mississippi lawmakers have shot down the firing squad as a means of execution for death row inmates.

The change, by a state Senate committee, came after the lower chamber passed a proposal Feb. 8 that would have allowed death by nitrogen gas chamber, firing squad and electrocution as alternatives to the current method of lethal injection. The state legislature proposed the other options in case others are deemed unconstitutional or become unavailable.

"States have been having difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs within the United States primarily because the American pharmaceutical manufacturers have uniformly said they don't want their medicines used in killing prisoners," said Robert Dunham, Director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

The options do not permit condemned prisoners to choose their execution method. The alternative methods are available only if the lethal injection is not available with gas chamber being the 2nd option and electrocution the last.

According to Dunham, other states have also turned to alternative ways to carry out death sentences. He notes Utah and Oklahoma have added death by firing squad as an alternate to lethal injection and Tennessee has authorized the use of the electric chair. Death by firing squad in Utah is only available to those sentenced to death prior to 2004. In all 31 states that allow the death penalty, the primary method for executions is lethal injection.

Dunham said he expects legal challenges to the most recent change in the proposed bill. The state currently faces legal challenges surrounding the drugs it uses for lethal injection executions. Opponents say the use of the drugs violate the U.S. Constitution.

The Magnolia State previously used the electric chair and gas chamber to execute violent criminals. Lethal injection became the state's sole means of execution in March of 1998, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Mississippi's most recent execution was carried out in 2012 and there are currently 47 people on death row in the state.

The bill will now move to the full state senate for consideration and will have to be sent back the house for approval of the amended changes before being passed on to the governor.

Source: Associated Press, February 25, 2017

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