Eye On Boise

News media court case on execution procedures: ‘It’s an access issue’

Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on today's developments in the media access execution case, in which a federal judge declined to issue a preliminary injunction against limits on witness access to Idaho's executions, finding that while the news media presented "a strong case on the merits" that the limits are unconstitutional, their timing was poor, because Idaho has an execution coming up on June 12; the news media are appealing the ruling.

"Simply put, the current scheduled execution does not allow adequate time for discovery, an evidentiary hearing, a ruling by this Court and a potential appeal by the non-successful litigant to the 9th Circuit before the scheduled execution date," wrote U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge. Lodge said he'd like to hold full hearings on the issue, with any subsequent ruling to apply to future executions - but not to the upcoming one of eastern Idaho murderer Richard Leavitt. Leavitt on Tuesday lost a bid in the Idaho Supreme Court to quash his death warrant on due-process grounds; it was the fourth attempt to stay his execution that he's lost in the past week.

"We're disappointed that the judge feels there's not enough time to resolve this before June 12," said Gary Graham, editor of The Spokesman-Review, one of more than a dozen Idaho media outlets and news groups pressing the lawsuit.  "All of the editors and reporters involved here feel it's critical ... that we, the media, have access to this kind of an event. An execution is not something to be taken lightly. ... It's an access issue for us, and we feel the public is best served if the media is there as their representative, to report how the process goes."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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