At a time when a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma and secrecy about how Texas prisons obtain lethal injection drugs have increased public scrutiny of executions, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is allowing fewer media outlets to attend them, the Texas Tribune reports. There are only five media seats available in one of two tiny viewing rooms adjacent to the Texas execution chamber in Huntsville. While some of those seats have long been reserved for specific media outlets, the state formerly allowed other reporters to fill empty chairs when those journalists couldn’t attend. Now, those seats remain empty, reducing the number of witnesses in the nation’s busiest death chamber.
Several years ago, the department began more strictly apportioning media seats, said spokesman Jason Clark. The media seats in the viewing room are the only way members of the public who aren’t related to the murder victim or the condemned inmate can obtain independent observations of the controversial procedure. Before a last-minute stay halted the execution of Robert James Campbell last month, the nation's first execution scheduled after the mishandled April 29 lethal injection in Oklahoma, eight media members had requested a seat in the witness room. The state approved seats for the Associated Press, The Huntsville Item and Houston Chronicle, and from two Houston-area TV stations. Requests from reporters for ABC News, The New York Times and The Texas Tribune were denied.