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Pennsylvania Press Can Seek Execution Access

(CN) - Two Pennsylvania newspapers can pursue a challenge to a state policy that bars audiovisual observation of prisoner executions, a federal judge ruled.

The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Patriot-News sued Secretary John Wetzel of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) and a prison superintendent, seeking injunctive relief from Pennsylvania policy on witnessing executions and hearing final statements.

On Nov. 6, the court awarded the newspapers a preliminary injunction the gave them full observation of an execution scheduled for Nov. 8.

Though the prison officials say that the newspapers failed to state a claim under the First Amendment, U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane refused to dismiss the case last week.

"The court finds that plaintiffs' amended complaint states a claim cognizable under the First Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983," Kane wrote. "In their amended complaint, plaintiffs have alleged facts supporting a claim under U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit precedent that their First Amendment rights are infringed by the DOC's lethal injection protocol. The court therefore finds that defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' amended complaint should be denied."

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