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Federal judge rejects media request for access to Idaho execution

A judge for the US District Court for the District of Idaho [official website] on Tuesday rejected [opinion, PDF] a petition for full access to executions submitted by the Associated Press [media website] and 16 other newspaper agencies. The Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) [official website] policy of having witnesses present during execution proceedings allows witnesses to view the execution only after the "inmate has entered the execution chamber, has been restrained, intravenous ("IV") catheters have been placed and medical personnel have left the viewable area of the execution chamber." The plaintiffs in this case sought a preliminary injunction, a permanent injunction and declaratory relief alleging that IDOC's policy violates the First Amendment. They specifically sought a preliminary injunction for the procedure in the execution of Richard Leavitt [AP report], which will take place on June 12. District Judge Edward Lodge reasoned that the plaintiffs have failed to timely file the motion for an expedited preliminary injunction because it was filed only 19 days before the scheduled execution. The judge acknowledged the plaintiffs' legitimate argument but he reasoned that there would be insufficient time to change IDOC's policy and procedures before the June 12 execution. Additionally, the court found that the plaintiffs failed to carry their burden for injunctive relief at this stage of litigation. The plaintiffs plan to appeal the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website].

States other than Idaho have received some attention regarding their death penalty procedures. In February, the US Supreme Court [official website] denied [JURIST report] Ohio's request to proceed its execution of Charles Lorraine, a 45-year-old man who was convicted in 1986 of killing an elderly couple, because the state deviates too often from its own lethal injection standards. In November of last year, the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, Maureen O'Connor [official profile] opened the first meeting of the state's death panel review committee which was formed [JURIST reports] in September to provide "guidance on the current laws on the subject, the practices in other jurisdictions, the data, the costs, and many other aspects associated with the death penalty."

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