Pennsylvania now will permit witnesses, including reporters, to observe state executions.The policy change, which follows settlement of a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, follows a federal judge’s order that the state cannot prevent witnesses from observing the entire process of lethal injection.
The previous policy required Department of Corrections employees to obstruct the view of witnesses while drugs were administered and the inmate’s consciousness was checked, said Vic Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania ACLU.
“They would draw the curtain to not allow witnesses to view what was going on for pretty much most of the execution process.” he said. “So it was really after the person was strapped down, after the IV lines are in, after he’s already on the table, and then for a short while, and then again after he was pronounced dead.”
The commonwealth argued the process should be shrouded to protect the identity of the employees administering the lethal injection. Lawyers with the ACLU and the firm Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP said the workers are already anonymous because they wear surgical masks during the procedure.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Harrisburg Patriot-News last year when the state appeared close to the first nonvoluntary execution of an inmate in some 15 years.
That inmate received a stay of execution.