Local Media Outlets Sue California Over Secretive Death Penalty Process

KQED, 48hills and the Los Angeles Times sued after the state implemented new protocol that limits public viewing.

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Frustrated by California’s lack of transparency in the death penalty process, local media groups sued the state on Wednesday to make more information public.

Lawyers for the Los Angeles Times, KQED, and 48hills filed the suit in Northern California federal court on Wednesday, claiming that a new protocol violates free-speech rights by keeping parts of the actual execution behind closed doors.

The suit says that the room where the drugs are prepared and injected is not available for public viewing, which leaves out a crucial part of the process. Plus, a curtain to the viewing window must be closed if three doses of the chemical does not kill the person, Bay City News reports.

On March 1, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation also changed the drugs which are used for lethal injections at San Quentin State Prison. But this presents another challenge because the manufacturer of one of the drugs, pentobarbital, won’t allow it to be used for executions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t allow the other drug, thiopental, to be imported. 

California has hit a few obstacles to executing individuals on death row, which last occurred in 2006. A long-running federal suit is challenging the procedure, which was halted by a judge who found the former three-drug method unconstitutional.

More than 700 people are on death row in California, which passed a 2016 proposition to speed up executions. The media-led lawsuit asks for the executions for the public to be able to fully view the execution.

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