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ACLU, press association sue state, demand transparency in execution of Zane Floyd

Chanel Pulido
Chanel Pulido
Criminal JusticeState Government
Death penalty chamber

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nevada and the Nevada Press Association have filed a federal lawsuit calling for a halt to the state’s planned execution of Zane Floyd — which would be the state’s first in 15 years — unless the process is more transparent. 

The lawsuit, filed Friday, argues that the state violates the First Amendment by interfering with the media’s ability to observe Zane Floyd’s execution in its entirety and without obstruction. The lack of transparency is especially concerning given that the state is “using experimental drug cocktails and an untested facility,” the ACLU said in a statement on Monday. 

“The state must not be allowed to move forward with an execution plan that allows them to hide the consequences of using experimental drug combinations to kill someone,” ACLU of Nevada attorney Christopher Peterson said in the statement. “Reporters have a critical mission of acting as government watchdogs and keeping the people of Nevada informed, and the First Amendment guarantees their right to serve as independent witnesses. We’re fighting to make sure Nevada can’t close the curtain on such an event.”

It is typical for a group of journalists to watch executions and report back on what they observed, including whether the person appears to be in pain before his or her death. Floyd’s execution is on hold at least until October.

But the ACLU objects to Nevada’s planned protocol, which includes the use of blinds to prevent witnesses from observing Floyd through a window before he is secured to the execution table, has his IV connected and is alone in the chamber with the warden.

In addition, the execution manual states that if at any point, Floyd experiences unexpected effects from the drugs, “the Drug Administrators, Warden and Director will pause the procedure, close the Viewing Room window blinds, and consult with the attending physician.” They will only reopen the blinds if the execution is resumed. 

The procedures also suggest that witnesses may not be able to hear what is occurring during the process because the execution manual does not assure that there will be a microphone in the chamber. 

In addition, the plaintiffs object to the state’s decision to give the director of the Nevada Department of Corrections “unfettered authority to deny requests from media representatives for an invitation” to the execution and the state’s failure to provide an alternative method of observation for press outlets that have been denied invitation such as certain broadcasters. 

They also argue that the use of a drug that will paralyze Floyd prevents the press from being able to observe and accurately report on the effects of the drug cocktail. 

The Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to a request Monday afternoon for comment on the lawsuit.

The ACLU’s plaintiff, the Nevada Press Association, represents news organizations throughout the state, and the case is called Nevada Press Association v. Sisolak. 

“The people of Nevada have a right to know if the state performs its executions humanely, and the press has a First Amendment right and responsibility to report it,” said Richard Karpel, executive director of the Nevada Press Association.

Read the complaint below:

Execution Transparency Lawsuit by Michelle Rindels


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