Public May See Entire PA Execution Scheduled for Today, Judge Rules


A Pennsylvania protocol limiting the ability of witnesses to see and hear all phases of an execution violates the First Amendment-based right of public access to judicial proceedings, a federal judge in Harrisburg, Pa., ruled Tuesday, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The court said in a case filed by the Philadelphia Inquirer and Harrisburg Patriot-News that because historically witnesses have been permitted full access to executions and such access would not jeopardize the safety of lethal injection administrators, all phases of execution procedures must be accessible to the public.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections protocol required that a curtain between the injection chamber and the witness observation room be closed during certain phases of the execution process, specifically when the inmate first enters the chamber and is prepared for the execution, during a consciousness check after the administration of the first drug, and during the coroner's examination of the inmate following the administration of the final two lethal injection drugs. The execution of Hubert Michael, scheduled for today, will be the first lethal injection execution in Pennsylvania permitting witnesses full access to all phases of the procedure.

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