Should Media Witness Executions?

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The Texas execution of 41-year-old Quintin Jones by lethal injection was the state’s first in modern history to take place without requisite witnesses from the news media, reports the Washington Post. Citing a communication error, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice apologized for failing to bring media witnesses to the execution, but the supposed mishap has only added to the growing scrutiny of the death penalty in the United States, where abolition advocates have long alleged unfairness, racism and the cruelty of execution protocols make the system untenable.

Robert Dunham, who leads the Death Penalty Information Center, a D.C.-based nonpartisan research organization, called Wednesday’s error with the media witnesses in Texas a “serious concern” that undermines the credibility of the system. Death-penalty states typically have arrangements that guarantee seats for the Associated Press and a local news outlet to witness executions with additional availability in high-profile cases determined by a lottery system or based on capacity. Both the Associated Press and the Huntsville Item, the two scheduled media witnesses for Jones’s execution, confirmed in their reports they were never escorted from their waiting area across the street from the prison to observe.

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