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Televising McVeigh's Execution

Oklahoma City bomber McVeigh released a statement that his execution should be televised. Family members of victims have also asked to be allowed to view his execution on closed circuit television. McVeigh suggested that his execution be televised more widely. After thinking about it, Attorney General Ashcroft agreed to let the surviving victims see the execution. Only 15% of the surviving victims eligible to watch will do so, while others choose different paths to healing.

An internet entertainment group (best known for Voyeurdorm.com) requested the Bureau of Prisons have a webcam in the execution chamber. The BOP says it's out of the question and there's an important interest in "not sensationalizing the event, maintaining prison security and respecting the privacy of the condemned individual." Entertainment Network Inc (ENI) would like to have the event on a website, with $1.95 access, payable by credit card (to discourage minors viewing it) and with the proceeds going to bombing victims. 

After being denied permission, ENI filed suit and claimed that a print reporter would be more likely to sensationalize the execution than a camera, which 'passively records events'; McVeigh has also waived his privacy rights and requested the execution be televised. To reduce security concerns, ENI indicated they would just take feed from the closed circuit camera that's already approved and will provide images to surviving victims. The district court has denied claim, but an appeal is planned. Judge Tinder cited "penological interests" that amounted to a security concern about a prison riot - inmates would watch the execution, see it as sport, feel devalued and riot. [Entertainment Network v. Lappin - in .pdf] 


Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals: Capital Punishment Handbook

1.15 Public Access to Executions [review of case law and other information]

Several newspapers declined to run this advertisement, which was made by supporters of capital punishment. Interestingly, many opponents of the death penalty thought the ad supported their position: the sight of the family (including young children) cheering enthusiastically for someone to die seems to be a satire or parody. 

General information on televising executions

Critique of reasoning in Entertainment Network v Lappin (Why Is A Photographer at an Execution A Criminal?) Why we should either televise executions or abolish the death penalty

Audio of Execution - The Execution Tapes

In 1998, audio tapes of 22 Georgia executions -- tapes recorded by members of the state's Department of Corrections for their own records -- entered the court record when criminal defense lawyer Mike Mears subpoenaed the tapes in a lawsuit he brought challenging the state's use of the electric chair. Sound Portraits acquired the recordings, and, in conjunction with WNYC, produced The Execution Tapes.

The Execution Tapes is an hour-long public radio special hosted by Ray Suarez featuring excerpts of recordings made in Georgia's death house during state electrocutions. This broadcast is the first time a national audience is able to hear what takes place during a state-sponsored execution.

Listen to the broadcast of the execution tapes - link also has other excellent resources

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