"Execution fight could come to Washington, Montana, is the title of an AP report written by Shannon Dininny. It's via the Tacoma News Tribune and the Helena Independent Record.
A federal appeals court ruling requiring that executions be fully open to public witnesses - including the insertion of IVs for lethal injection - could still have ramifications in two Western states that have kept part of their inmate executions from public view.
Washington state officials are still reviewing the ruling and say they have no immediate plans to change their execution procedures because they have no executions scheduled. Officials in Montana, meanwhile, say they haven't reviewed the ruling because they also have no executions scheduled.
Arizona and Idaho, where the legal case originated, changed their procedures in two recent executions as a result of the ruling. But whether a legal fight over the issue now looms in Washington and Montana remains to be seen.
"This is certainly something we're evaluating right now," said Sherilyn Peterson, a defense attorney who has previously challenged Washington's death penalty protocol on behalf of condemned inmates.
"It's a good time because there isn't an execution scheduled, so if there is going to be a case, better to do it now than wait until the last minute," she said.
Today, nearly all of the 34 states that use lethal injection restrict access to half of every execution, shielding from view the moment the condemned enters the death chamber and when the IV lines are inserted.
The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2002 that every aspect of an execution should be open to witnesses. The ruling applied to the nine Western states in the court's jurisdiction, but four states still kept part of subsequent executions away from public view: Arizona, Idaho, Washington and Montana.
Two inmates await execution in Montana’s death chamber, a single-wide trailer outside the prison in Deer Lodge. Witnesses sit mere feet away, with no window to separate them from the condemned.
Montana has carried out three executions since reinstatement of the death penalty in the 1970s, with the most recent in 2006.
Members of the state’s execution team have never raised fears about remaining anonymous because it’s never been an issue, said Montana Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Anez. Witnesses are not brought in until the condemned inmate is strapped down and the IV line inserted.
Seven men await execution at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, where the execution chamber sits at the end of Unit 6, an old, brick living unit built in 1932.