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UPDATE: Access to Executions

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  1. Prior Restraint
UPDATE: Access to Executions03/11/96 A Marin County Superior Court judge in mid-February refused to issue a preliminary injunction to place…

UPDATE: Access to Executions

A Marin County Superior Court judge in mid-February refused to issue a preliminary injunction to place the San Francisco Examiner on a list of media witnesses at a state execution, despite granting a mid- January temporary restraining order that would have allowed the Examiner to attend another execution, which was later cancelled.

The court upheld the state Corrections Department’s process for selecting the media organizations which may attend executions. The numbers are limited due to the capacity of the viewing area. The state grants 17 media slots, eight to radio and television stations, five to the largest newspapers, two to news services and the remaining two chosen by lottery. All media witnesses are required to hold a news conference for all other reporters not present at the execution.

The Examiner, which says it has had a reporter at every execution in California since 1898, says that it should be included in the media list because as an afternoon paper, it can provide same-day eyewitness coverage. In 1992, when denied access to another execution, the paper sued the state successfully after arguing that its status as an afternoon paper gave it a compelling reason to attend the event.

The California Society of Newspaper Editors, in support of the Examiner, submitted a proposal to the Department of Corrections that would guarantee an afternoon paper a slot at executions. They argue that the news media, not the state, should be responsible for determining which media can attend executions.

However, prison system officials rejected the proposal, maintaining that its selection process is fair and in the best interest of the people of California. (San Francisco Examiner v. California Department of Corrections; Media Counsel: James Brelsford)