LEWISTON, Idaho (CN) – A federal judge ordered mediation after several news organizations sued Gov. Butch Otter and his Department of Correction, demanding the right to see all stages of human executions.
Charles Brown, attorney for lead plaintiff The Associated Press, said Tuesday that mediation talks will begin Thursday.
Brown said there is no time limit to the mediation, but he did not expect it to take longer than a day. If they cannot come to a resolution, Brown said, the case would return to U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, who would rule on pleadings.
Brown seemed optimistic about an agreement.
“I never used to be in favor of mediations, but I have found over the years that they can be very helpful and fruitful,” he told Courthouse News from his office in Lewiston. “Now I’m a strong advocate for it. There is always a way to communicate and anything can happen. It’s always a surprise.”
Idaho Press Club President Betsy Russell wrote in November to Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke: “It is not our intent in any way to interfere with or delay the procedures related to this weighty matter; a simple decision to bring the press witnesses into the chamber approximately 25 minutes earlier than is otherwise contemplated would remedy the situation and ensure that procedures followed are in line with the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as interpreted by our courts,” she wrote. Russell cited a 9th Circuit ruling in California that permanently enjoins prison officials from preventing uninterrupted viewing of executions.
In the Idaho lawsuit, 16 news organizations claimed it is in the public interest to know what takes place during an execution, from the time an inmate walks into the execution chamber to the time he is pronounced dead.
Russell wrote to Reinke: “We in the press take our responsibility to serve as the eyes and ears of the public very seriously.”