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Station challenges death-row interview ban

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    NMU         ALABAMA         Newsgathering         Apr 18, 2002    

Station challenges death-row interview ban

  • A Montgomery, Ala., television crew challenged a prison policy as it seeks an interview with a death-row inmate set to be the first woman to die in the state’s electric chair.

A Montgomery, Ala., television station wishing to interview a death-row inmate who might become the first woman to die in Alabama’s electric chair next month has asked a court to remove a ban on media contact with such inmates.

WSFA/Channel 12 filed suit in Montgomery County Court, asking a judge to allow one of its reporters to speak to Lynda Lyon Block, a woman scheduled to die on May 10 for the murder of a police officer in 1993. The station contends the ban, ordered by Prison Commissioner Mike Haley, violates the station’s First Amendment rights.

Block and her common-law husband, George Sibley, both were convicted on capital murder charges in the shooting death of Roger Motley, a police office in Opelika, in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Sibley also sits on death row but hasn’t had a date scheduled for his execution.

Both Sibley and Block say they openly reject government sanctions, claiming that police have no legal power. In court, they said they were merely acting in self-defense after Motley grabbed his gun first.

Haley had issued a memo saying he didn’t wish “to publicize this heinous crime and in so doing bring any recognition to Ms. Block.”

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price scheduled arguments for the case for April 19.

(WSFA v. Dep’t of Corrections) PT

© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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