A controversial policy prohibiting federal death row inmates from giving face-to-face interviews with the news media will soon have its own day in court, says the Terre Haute (In.) Tribune-Star. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled this week that death row inmate David Paul Hammer will be able to challenge the eight-year-old policy prohibiting reporters from personally interviewing inmates sentenced to the execution unit. Hammer is housed in the Special Confinement Unit (death row) of the federal prison at Terre Haute.
Several journalism groups agreed with Hammer that the policy arose from a desire to limit the prisoners' speech in public venues, a move that is in violation of their constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech. The policy was instituted after the nationally broadcast interview with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh on CBS's “60 Minutes” in March 2000. The Seventh Circuit ruled that Hammer should have access to counsel and discovery to sue the government.