Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Wash. To Change Execution Rules, Allow More Witness Access

The next time a death row inmate is executed by lethal injection in Washington, witnesses will see more of the process. Washington’s secretary of corrections confirmed Wednesday that a closed-circuit camera will capture the moment the needle goes in.

The change in Washington execution protocols follows a 2012 ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In that case, the Associated Press and several other news organizations challenged Idaho’s procedures, namely that witnesses were not allowed to see the IV lines go in — a stage in the process when technical problems can occur.

Immediately after the 2012 ruling, Idaho changed its procedures. Now Washington Secretary of Corrections Bernie Warner says he’s close to finalizing new procedures here.

“That would allow for video viewing of witnesses to look at the entire execution process from insertion of the needle until the pronouncement of death,” Warner said.

Warner says the camera and video monitors are already in place in the execution chamber at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. He says the camera hangs from a ceiling and will not capture the faces of the execution team whose identity is kept secret.

Washington currently has nine inmates on death row, but no executions are currently scheduled. Death row inmates in the state have a choice between death by lethal injection or hanging. Oregon currently has a moratorium on executions.

The change in policy was first reported by the Associated Press.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.