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Idaho Stations Fight for More Access to Execution

News stations in Idaho have joined with several other media outlets in the state to challenge the proposed schedule of an execution set for Friday.

Paul Ezra Rhoades is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Friday morning and authorities have barred members of the media from viewing the first 25 minutes of the procedure.

The execution is the first to occur in Idaho in over 15 years and prison officials plan to begin the procedure in private before allowing witnesses into the execution chamber.

Media outlets argue that the schedule infringes on their first amendment rights while, according to the Associated Press, prison officials say they’re trying to maintain Rhoades’ dignity by not allowing witnesses to view the IVs being inserted into him.

When Idaho’s department of correction released the tentative media schedule last Friday, many noticed a 25-minute gap in the proceedings.

According to KIFI-KIDK, the schedule reads: “7:20 a.m. Offender is moved from isolation cell to execution chamber. 7:45 a.m. Witnesses are escorted into execution chamber.”

Last week, the DOC shot down a request to revise the schedule from the Idaho Press Club. Now, a handful of local media outlets, including KIFI-KIDK, have banded together with the Idaho Press Club, the Idaho State Broadcasters Association, and others to challenge the schedule.

“Our role as the media is really to be the eyes and ears of the public,” KIFI-KIDK general manager Mark Danielson said. “It’s our job to make sure that things are followed by the letter of the law and follow procedures.”

An attorney for the news organizations sent a letter to Idaho officials, arguing that witnesses have the right to view every step of the execution process. The argument is based on a recent 9th U.S. Circuit Court ruling.

Here’s the Associated Press:

The 9th Circuit ruling addressed California prison officials’ concerns that allowing viewing of the entire execution in that state would allow reporters to figure out the identity of execution teams. In that case, the court found that surgical garb including facemasks could effectively conceal the identities of the team, and the judges noted that even if Media witnesses were kept out of the room until the execution team left the area, a condemned inmate could easily reveal their identities by giving their names in his final statement.

According to the AP, the director of the DOC sent a formal response on Wednesday night declining to allow the media access to the first 25 minutes of the procedure, saying that any last-minute changes could potentially disrupt the entire process.

The news organizations could still file a lawsuit.

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