Death Penalty

The Battle for Death Penalty Transparency

Journalists and prisoners stage a First Amendment challenge to state secrecy regarding executions.


"The Battle for Death Penalty Transparency"

About 5 minutes. Produced by Anthony L. Fisher. Camera by Josh Swain and Fisher. Graphics by Jason Keisling. Additional assistance by Robert Mariani.

Original release date was June 5, 2015 and the original writeup is below.

Americans may shudder at the barbarity depicted in videos showing public executions by the governments of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China, but the fact remains that alone among all Western countries, the United States is a death penalty country.

Though the death penalty is legal in the majority of American states, only a handful of them actually carry out executions, numbering in the few dozens annually. Part of the reason the American public maintains a steadfast support of its government killing convicted murderers is due to the cloak of secrecy covering executions and the fact that the most common form of execution, lethal injection, is sold to the public as a medical procedure, akin to putting a sick animal to sleep.

But a series of botched executions in 2014 have exposed a problem largely unknown to the American public: The drugs used for lethal injections are experimental, untested, and proving to be ineffective at killing prisoners without excruciating pain. Just last week, the execution of a woman in Georgia was halted hours before it was scheduled to take place because one of the drugs appeared "cloudy." The last thing the state of Georgia wanted was to join the list of states making a mess of killing people.