Scott Martelle writes, "Secrecy surrounding Oklahoma execution is unacceptable," at the Los Angeles Times Opinion LA blog.
The plaintiffs argue, rightfully, that by selectively opening and closing the shutters covering windows into the death chamber, prison officials denied the public’s right to know about a significant governmental action. After the fact, corrections officials released incomplete statements about what occurred, but the public’s eyes and ears — the media — were unable to offer independent corroboration or to refute the facts as the prison officials provided them.
Such secrecy is unacceptable. Oklahoma has scheduled another execution for Nov. 13, though that could get delayed (it was to have taken place shortly after Lockett’s execution but was postponed). The courts should side with the plaintiffs. Secretive executions should not be part of an open government, or society.
The Tulsa World reports, "Publications, ACLU sue corrections department for right to watch executions," by Cary Aspinwall.
Journalists have a right to view Oklahoma's executions without obstruction by prison officials, argues a lawsuit filed Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union and two publications.
The lawsuit, filed by ACLU's national and Oklahoma chapters on behalf of Guardian US and The Oklahoma Observer, seeks to stop Oklahoma prison officials from hiding portions of an execution from media witnesses.
"Journalists, ACLU file federal lawsuit over botched Oklahoma execution," is by Graham Lee Brewer in the Oklahoman.
A spokesman for the state Corrections Department declined to comment Monday.
The journalists involved in the lawsuit are seeking an injunction, asking that lethal injection be a more transparent procedure. They are attempting to put in place a restriction on closing the blinds during an execution and to require corrections departments to allow the press to witness the placement of the inmate’s IV.
“The more immediate goal of the case is really more about the curtain, so to speak,” said Brady Henderson, legal counsel for the Oklahoma chapter of the ACLU. “It’s about lifting it. It’s about making sure that press witnesses have the full access that they should. But, I think of course the larger goal is transparency as a whole. And, that transparency of course applies, whether or not things are going as planned, or whether they’re going awry, like they were in Lockett’s case.”
"Lawsuit Seeks Uncensored Access To Executions," is by Arnold Hamilton for the Oklahoma Observer.
The Oklahoma Observer, the Guardian US and the American Civil Liberties Union today filed suit in federal court, seeking to prevent Oklahoma prison officials from arbitrarily filtering what journalists can witness during executions.
The lawsuit follows April’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett at the state penitentiary in McAlester. When the procedure did not go as planned, prison officials closed the curtain in the death chamber, blocking the view of independent witnesses.
“Oklahoma taxpayers have an absolute right to know what their government is doing in their name – especially when it comes to imposing the court’s ultimate punishment,” said Observer Editor Arnold Hamilton, a plaintiff in the case.
"Media and ACLU sue Oklahoma over right to watch executions," is the LA Times news coverage written by Matt Pearce.
Monday's lawsuit was not the first time that the Guardian -- a British publication that has recently expanded its coverage of the United States with Guardian U.S. -- has sued American public officials over 1st Amendment rights.
In May, the Guardian, the Associated Press and Missouri's three-largest newspapers sued state officials over the state's execution secrecy laws, which have helped conceal the source of the state's lethal injection drugs and the identities of execution personnel. Schulz helped design the Missouri lawsuit.)
"News organizations sue Oklahoma prisons director over blocked view of botched execution," is AP coverage by Tim Talley. It's via the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.
Monday's lawsuit alleges prison officials used the viewing shade inside the execution chamber to block witnesses' view of the procedure both before and after it was under way.
"The assembled press was denied the opportunity to observe Clayton Lockett entering the execution chamber and his intravenous lines being prepared and inserted," it states. The viewing shade was lifted as Lockett's execution began but prison officials lowered it again in the middle of the procedure, "prematurely terminating press access," according to the lawsuit.
Associated Press writer Sean Murphy, who witnessed the execution, described Lockett writhing against the straps that held him on the gurney and gritting his teeth and moaning. Curtains in the execution chamber were closed about 16 minutes after the injection began. The director of the state's prison system, Robert Patton, later called off the execution, but Lockett died about 10 minutes later.
Additional coverage includes:
"Activists, newspapers sue over blocked access to Oklahoma executions," by Heide Brandes of Reuters, via GlobalPost.
UPI posts, "Oklahoma sued over botched execution," by Gabrielle Levy.
"Does press have First Amendment right to view entire execution? ACLU sues over closed blinds," by Debra Cassens Weiss for ABA Journal.
"Oklahoma sued over botched execution," by Susan Greene for the Colorado Independent.
"Oklahoma sued over secrecy of botched execution," by Peter Moskowitz for Al Jazeera America.
Oklahoma Observer v. Patton is available in Adobe .pdf format.
Earlier coverage of the Oklahoma lawsuit begins at the link.