Lawsuit demands more-open executions
LITTLE ROCK — Several journalists sued the state prisons chief yesterday, demanding he let witnesses see the entire execution process and not just when poison flows into condemned inmates.
Arkansas does not allow reporters and public witnesses to watch as intravenous tubes are inserted and removed from the inmates. The curtains to the execution chamber open to witnesses after the condemned prisoner is strapped to the gurney, and close once the inmate is dead.
“The public has a First Amendment right to view executions from the moment the condemned is escorted into the execution chamber,” reads the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Pine Bluff by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas on behalf of the Northwest Arkansas Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Arkansas Times Inc. and the editor of the Arkansas Times.
Department spokeswoman Dina Tyler disputed the First Amendment claim.
“The foundation of this lawsuit has a large fault running through it and that is, it assumes that executions in Arkansas are public events, when state law declares them to be exactly the opposite, to be private,” she said.
Rainfall eases Okeechobee shortfall
WEST PALM BEACH — South Florida’s drought problems are far from over, but summer rain has begun to replenish Lake Okeechobee in the heart of the Everglades after an 18-month dry spell led to severe restrictions, officials said yesterday.
The lake, a backup drinking source for millions of residents, remains 4 feet below normal levels, but water resumed flowing last week with the recent rain, and water-use restrictions were loosened.
It had been more than 250 days since water flowed south, depriving Lake Okeechobee of 50 percent of its water supply and dropping its level to record lows. The lake needs about another 5 feet of rain to return to normal levels.
The Army Corps of Engineers began allowing water to flow south from the Kissimmee River basin July 18. It continues to flow at a rate of about 97 million gallons a day, said John Zediak, chief of water management at the corps’ Jacksonville district.
Student arrested in threat of rampage