Legislature passes bill to allow reporters to witness executions
TENNESSEE — The legislature approved a bill requiring that the state designate seven reporters to view executions. The bill was sent to Gov. Ned McWherter in mid-March.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Wayne Ritchie (D-Knoxville), would require that the commissioner of corrections name three print representatives, two radio reporters and two television reporters to view any executions. Of the print representatives, the bill would require that one represent the Associated Press and the other “the dominant newspaper” in the county where the crime was committed.
Among the broadcast reporters, one radio and one television representative would have to come from a Tennessee station that serves the county in which the crime was committed.
The bill would prohibit photographic or recording equipment “at the execution site” until the completion of the execution, the removal of the body and restoration of the execution site “to an orderly condition.”
Rules establishing the criteria for selecting the reporters would be promulgated by the Corrections Department after soliciting recommendations from the Tennessee Press Association, the Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors and the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters.
Under current state law, the only people who may witness an execution are the prison warden or the warden’s deputy, the sheriff from the county where the crime was committed, a priest or minister, the prison doctor and anyone else the warden deems necessary to carry out the death sentence. No one has been executed in Tennessee since 1960.