The ACLU and two news organizations filed a federal lawsuit Monday to force Oklahoma prison officials to let witnesses watch executions from beginning to end. The litigation is a response to the botched April 29 lethal injection of Clayton Lockett, in which the execution team closed the blinds when the inmate began appeared to regain consciousness and struggle 20 minutes after the drugs were administered. The suit asks the court to order that all witnesses, including the media, be able to view the proceedings from the moment the prisoner enters the execution chamber until he or she is taken out.
“The state of Oklahoma violated the First Amendment, which guarantees the right of the press to witness executions so the public can be informed about the government’s actions and hold it accountable,” Lee Rowland, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “The death penalty represents the most powerful exercise of government authority. The need for public oversight is as critical at the execution stage as it is during trial.”
Lockett, a rapist and murderer, died of an apparent heart attack after the execution was halted. Oklahoma has put lethal injections on hold while it investigates the bungled procedure, which prompted the White House to order a federal review of state execution protocols.
— Tracy Connor
First published August 25 2014, 7:00 AM