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Court rejects webcast of McVeigh execution

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  1. Content Restrictions

    NMU         INDIANA         Broadcasting         Apr 20, 2001    

Court rejects webcast of McVeigh execution

  • A closed-circuit telecast will be the only broadcast of Timothy McVeigh’s execution as a U.S. District Court rejects a plea by an Internet company to show it on the Web.

The day before the sixth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, a U.S. District Court judge refused to allow an Internet company to carry a live feed of the execution of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. .

Entertainment Network, Inc., which operates adults-only subscription Web sites, claimed that a federal law barring the broadcast of executions violates the First Amendment.

“Whatever First Amendment protection exists for viewing executions, it is not violated by [the Bureau of Prisons’] explicit regulation against recording or broadcasting them to the public,” Judge John Tinder of the federal district court in Terre Haute wrote in a 31-page decision released April 18.

ENI argued that the impending execution of McVeigh on May 16, the first of a federal prisoner since 1963, carried a compelling public interest that would warrant widespread dissemination.

“Mr. McVeigh committed a terrorist act against our entire country and the victims of that attack — the American people — should be able to witness his execution,” Derek Newman, an attorney for ENI, said in his brief. “The United States government is sponsoring the killing of a human being, and it is doing so on behalf of its citizens.”

Following a lengthy discussion of previous cases that considered analogous questions, Tinder said he was persuaded “that the right ENI asserts — the right to record or broadcast an execution from within a prison — does not exist.”

ENI plans to file an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago (7th Cir.) or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, David Marshlack, chief executive of ENI, said in a statement.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft on April 12 approved the first closed-circuit broadcast of an execution in an attempt to accommodate the survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing and families of the victims. Letters went out to about 3,000 victims and family members with details about the closed-circuit broadcast, which will be held at a federal prison facility in Oklahoma City. Survivors and family members have until May 1 to reserve a seat.

McVeigh was convicted of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people. He is scheduled to die by lethal injection at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

(Entertainment Network Inc. v Lappin; Media Counsel: Derek Newman, Seattle) EH

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