Experts Raise Concerns After Texas Execution Without Media

By JUAN A. LOZANO

This undated handout photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Quintin Jones. Jones, convicted of fatally beating his 83-year-old great aunt more than two decades earlier, was executed Wednesday, May 19, 2021, without media witnesses present because prison agency officials neglected to notify reporters it was time to carry out the punishment. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

HOUSTON (AP) — While officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice are blaming miscommunication for preventing reporters from witnessing the state’s first execution in nearly a year, legal and death penalty experts worry it’s another example of what they see as a lack of transparency and competency in how the death penalty is carried out in the U.S.

Two reporters, including one with The Associated Press, had been set to witness Wednesday’s execution of Quintin Jones at the state penitentiary in Huntsville. But they were not escorted into a viewing room adjacent to the death chamber because a call was never made to summon them.

Jones, condemned for the September 1999 killing of his great-aunt, Berthena Bryant, was executed with no media present. The previous 570 executions carried out since Texas resumed capital punishment in 1982 all had at least one media witness — and it was often an AP journalist.

The AP aims to cover every U.S. execution, one of the gravest procedures carried out by governments, and has for decades because the public has the right to know about all stages of the criminal justice process. The AP often is the sole media presence at U.S. executions, and explains the American death penalty process to the world.

Media witnesses hold government officials accountable when executions are flawed. In recent years, reporters have been able to witness and tell the public about botched or problematic executions in Alabama, Arizona, Oklahoma and Ohio, where inmates could be seen gasping for breath for long periods of time or writhing and clenching their teeth while on the gurney. Reporters have also highlighted efforts by states to prevent the public from knowing the source of lethal injection drugs they use.

An investigation into what led to the miscommunication in Texas continued Thursday, said state Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel. It was unknown how long the investigation would take to complete.

“We are taking steps to ensure that what happened doesn’t happen again in the future,” he said.

Desel said the prison agency does not believe any state laws were violated by not having media witness the execution.

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure does not specifically mention media in connection with witnessing an execution, Desel said.

A part of the Texas Administrative Code — rules and regulations that govern state agencies — lists individuals who are authorized to witness an execution, including a media pool consisting of five reporters. The AP is specifically designated as one of the five pool reporters. Desel said the administrative code “does not mention or use the word must in any way, just that the following persons may be authorized to witness.”

In a Thursday tweet, state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, welcomed the investigation.

“It was ‘a mistake’ and/or ‘a miscommunication’ is not acceptable. This is an unfathomable, colossal screw-up and we need answers,” he said.

The office of Gov. Greg Abbott did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said while the administrative code is written in a way to give the state has some deniability as to whether it violated the law, not letting reporters witness Wednesday’s execution was a violation of the law and “describing it as anything but that is parsing words.”

The mistakes that led to what happened on Wednesday speak to the ability of Texas and the 23 other states that currently have the death penalty to carry out executions, said Dunham, whose group takes no position on capital punishment but has criticized the way states carry out executions.

“Texas has more experience in carrying out executions than any other jurisdiction in the Western Hemisphere and if Texas can make a mistake like this, what confidence can the public have in what other states are doing?” he said.

Joseph Larsen, a Houston attorney who is also on the board of directors of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, called the lack of media witnesses “inexcusable” and executions “must be done with complete transparency to maintain the integrity of the judicial process.”

“It is not different from requiring that the trial of the person charged be public and witnessed,” he said. “Texas officials would like to restrict media access to the extent (most) possible, mostly for political reasons.”

Larsen also believes the Texas Department of Criminal Justice violated state law by not having media witnesses on Wednesday.

Executions were once held in front of courthouses and often turned into public spectacles but since they became “more solemn and somber activities” within prison walls, the media has functioned as a way “to ensure public accountability and to report if anything goes wrong,” Dunham said.

No reporters during Wednesday’s execution also meant the public wasn’t able to get firsthand details from the media about several changes that have been made in the execution procedure.

Accommodations have been made to allow an inmate’s spiritual adviser in the death chamber. Last month, prison officials reversed a two-year ban on advisers created after the U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution of an inmate who had argued his religious freedom was being violated because his Buddhist spiritual adviser wasn’t allowed to accompany him.

The death chamber has also undergone some renovations, including soundproofing and new paint and carpet.

Dunham said states and the media have an uneasy relationship when it comes to executions as states need the media to preserve the legitimacy of executions while they try to also avoid accountability when things go wrong.

“It’s a balance between legitimacy and accountability,” he said. “States need the media, but they also want to restrict it.”

___

Associated Press writers Michael Graczyk in Huntsville and Paul J. Weber in Austin contributed to this report.



No comments

Thank you for reaching out to us. We are happy to receive your opinion and request. If you are need advert or sponsored post, We’re excited you’re considering advertising or sponsoring a post on our blog. Your support is what keeps us going. With the current trend, it’s very obvious content marketing is the way to go. Banner advertising and trying to get customers through Google Adwords may get you customers but it has been proven beyond doubt that Content Marketing has more lasting benefits.
We offer majorly two types of advertising:
1. Sponsored Posts: If you are really interested in publishing a sponsored post or a press release, video content, advertorial or any other kind of sponsored post, then you are at the right place.
WHAT KIND OF SPONSORED POSTS DO WE ACCEPT?
Generally, a sponsored post can be any of the following:
Press release
Advertorial
Video content
Article
Interview
This kind of post is usually written to promote you or your business. However, we do prefer posts that naturally flow with the site’s general content. This means we can also promote artists, songs, cosmetic products and things that you love of all products or services.
DURATION & BONUSES
Every sponsored article will remain live on the site as long as this website exists. The duration is indefinite! Again, we will share your post on our social media channels and our email subscribers too will get to read your article. You’re exposing your article to our: Twitter followers, Facebook fans and other social networks.

We will also try as much as possible to optimize your post for search engines as well.

Submission of Materials : Sponsored post should be well written in English language and all materials must be delivered via electronic medium. All sponsored posts must be delivered via electronic version, either on disk or e-mail on Microsoft Word unless otherwise noted.
PRICING
The price largely depends on if you’re writing the content or we’re to do that. But if your are writing the content, it is $60 per article.

2. Banner Advertising: We also offer banner advertising in various sizes and of course, our prices are flexible. you may choose to for the weekly rate or simply buy your desired number of impressions.

Technical Details And Pricing
Banner Size 300 X 250 pixels : Appears on the home page and below all pages on the site.
Banner Size 728 X 90 pixels: Appears on the top right Corner of the homepage and all pages on the site.
Large rectangle Banner Size (336x280) : Appears on the home page and below all pages on the site.
Small square (200x200) : Appears on the right side of the home page and all pages on the site.
Half page (300x600) : Appears on the right side of the home page and all pages on the site.
Portrait (300x1050) : Appears on the right side of the home page and all pages on the site.
Billboard (970x250) : Appears on the home page.

Submission of Materials : Banner ads can be in jpeg, jpg and gif format. All materials must be deliverd via electronic medium. All ads must be delivered via electronic version, either on disk or e-mail in the ordered pixel dimensions unless otherwise noted.
For advertising offers, send an email with your name,company, website, country and advert or sponsored post you want to appear on our website to omodjk(at)gmail(dot)com

Normally, we should respond within 48 hours.

Sponsored Partner's Advertisement