Journalists seek greater access to executions p.27

By: Editorial Staff CALIFORNIA FIRST AMENDMENT groups and individual journalists have sued the state for more complete access to prison executions.
They are asking that the news media be allowed to witness the entire lethal injection process, complaining that reporters were permitted to watch only the final moments of a recent execution at San Quentin prison, learning later there had been a medical problem concerning the injection.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the California First Amendment Coalition, Society of Professional Journalists and several broadcast and print reporters who had witnessed the execution of William Bonin on Feb. 23.
According to the complaint, media witnesses only saw Bonin lying almost motionless on a gurney. They later were informed the execution had been delayed several minutes because of a problem pushing a needle into the arm of the serial killer.
Tip Kindel, a Department of Corrections spokesman, said prison officials were aware of the media's needs, but also had to protect the identities of personnel involved in the execution.
Kindel was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle as acknowledging that the media witnesses did not see Bonin's expression when he entered the death chamber or the difficulty staff members had in injecting the needle, but said the limitations were reasonable.
"The idea that staff or anyone should be required to do that kind of medical procedure in that kind of circumstance in front of the media is a bit of a stretch," Kindel added.


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