The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the decision a day after hearing arguments in a lawsuit from the news groups seeking to change Idaho’s protocol, saying it’s unconstitutionally restrictive. The case aims to strike down a portion of Idaho’s regulations that prevent witnesses from watching executions until after catheters have been inserted into the veins of death row inmates.
It’s unclear how the ruling will affect Tuesday’s scheduled execution of Idaho death row inmate Richard Leavitt. The 53-year-old Leavitt was sentenced to die for the 1984 murder of a Blackfoot woman.
A federal judge last week denied a request from the news groups seeking to prevent Leavitt’s execution without the changes. The news organizations appealed that ruling.
The 9th Circuit, during arguments Thursday, noted that the federal court had already ruled in a 2002 California case that every aspect of an execution should be open to witnesses, from the moment the condemned enters the death chamber to the final heartbeat. The decade-old decision established what was expected of the nine Western states within the court’s jurisdiction.
The court asked Idaho prosecutors to inquire whether the prison warden would allow full viewing access to Tuesday’s execution. (AP)