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ACLU, media seeking greater access to executions

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Oklahoma [advocacy websites], the Guardian US and the Oklahoma Observer [media websites] filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] on Monday in the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma [official website] seeking greater media access to state executions. The lawsuit cites the botched execution [JURIST report] of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett in April, during which the press had access to only a truncated version of the execution proceedings when state officials closed the viewing shade. The complaint stresses that the First Amendment [text] guarantees the public and press the affirmative right of access to certain government proceedings; meaningful access to executions is critical to assess the propriety and lawfulness of the death penalty. "Plaintiffs ask that the Court prohibit the State of Oklahoma from denying them meaningful, uninterrupted, and unedited access to the entire execution procedure."

Less than a week before Lockett's botched execution in April, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the constitutional rights of inmates were not violated by keeping secret the sources of the lethal injection drugs. Due to a shortage of commonly used lethal injection drugs in the US, a number of states have been forced to modify their execution drug protocols. Also in April a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a lawsuit filed by the ACLU challenging a bill intended to protect the identities of individuals who provide direct support for the administration of the death penalty may continue. In February the Supreme Court of Georgia [official website] heard arguments [JURIST report] regarding the constitutionality of a law allowing the state to withhold the identities of the manufacturers of Georgia's lethal injection drugs. That same week a federal judge in Louisiana scheduled [JURIST report] a trial to review the constitutionality of the state's new execution protocol, which delayed a prisoner's execution for 90 days.

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