Thursday, April 20, 2017

Arkansas's disgraceful policy for media viewing executions UPDATE

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 4:45 PM

click to enlarge THE KILLING ROOM
  • THE KILLING ROOM

The Arkansas Department of Correction will allow three members of the media inside the execution viewing room if executions continue as planned. But officials will not let those reporters bring in anything to take notes, including pen and paper. KUAR's Jacob Kauffman reports.

UPDATE: The state will now provide the reporter witnesses with pen and paper, Jacob Rosenberg reports.

Correction spokesman Solomon Graves told reporters earlier this week he doesn't think it's a problem.

“I trust your ability to be able to clearly and concisely report what you would have witnessed,” Graves told reporters on Monday following stayed executions.

But Robert Dunham, the director of the Death Penalty Information Center says the state’s decision is unusual. He couldn’t think of another state that bans reporters from carrying notepads. Dunham said it’s necessary to get information, like that collected in the 2014 botched execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona.

“Reporters counted the he hacked more than 640 times. That was not something they could have done if they didnt’ have paper and pencil because they were making tick marks each time that he gasped,” Dunham told KUAR, “That illustrates why having paper and pencil, the ability to record information and not have to rely solely on your memory, can be so important.”

Texas, Missouri, and Virginia are the only states that have held executions this year. They all allow media witnesses to document executions. The Director of Public Information for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice says his state allows reporters to carry pen and paper.
I sent the ADC's Graves a note protesting the policy earlier today and asking for justification. This is what I got back:

We will continue you provide you, and other members of the media, with a level of access that considers state law, the unique safety and security considerations of an execution, and the public's need for media coverage of the activities surrounding these scheduled executions.

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