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Eye On Boise

Mon., June 4, 2012, 5:57 p.m.

News media have witnessed all but one Idaho state execution since 1901

The Idaho Daily Statesman on May 7, 1909, published this picture of a formal invitation the newspaper had received from the state prison warden, for its reporter to cover the execution of Fred Seward. (Idaho Daily Statesman, May 7, 1909)
The Idaho Daily Statesman on May 7, 1909, published this picture of a formal invitation the newspaper had received from the state prison warden, for its reporter to cover the execution of Fred Seward. (Idaho Daily Statesman, May 7, 1909)

As Idaho's news media spar with the state in federal court over limits on access to executions, the case has turned a spotlight onto Idaho's long and consistent history of media witnesses attending its state executions to serve as the eyes and ears of the public. In fact, media witnesses have been present for all but one Idaho execution since 1901, and published detailed accounts of them.

"The body swung not to the right and left, the rope made not a single twist, but facing the sun in the eastern sky, like one standing erect, all that was mortal of Ed Rice was there before his fellows, while the tide of life fast ebbed away," the Idaho Daily Statesman reported in 1901, recounting the first state execution held at Idaho's state prison. Prior to 1901, executions were conducted at the county level in Idaho, and most were public, with hundreds attending.

Idaho's news media, including the Associated Press, The Spokesman-Review, the Idaho Press Club and more than a dozen other news outlets and organizations, are suing in federal court over Idaho's current execution procedures, which bar witnesses from the first portion of the lethal injection procedure, when the condemned prisoner is strapped down to a gurney and IVs are inserted. The media have been in discussions with the state over the issue since before Paul Ezra Rhoades was executed in November, but the state has refused to change its procedure. Now, another Idaho execution is scheduled: Richard Leavitt is scheduled to die by lethal injection on June 12. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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