Taped Executions: Courtroom Evidence or TV Content?

Jessica Jackson

After the Georgia execution of Andrew DeYoung was taped last month, many people have asked why such tapings are not a routine practice or a requirement.  Given the vast number of problems that have occurred during lethal injection executions, including difficulty locating intimates’ veins; improper training, which has led to blown veins or incorrect mixtures of chemicals being given; equipment failures; and deficiencies with the drugs themselves; it is no surprise that some lawyers are making this request.

But the concept of taping executions raises several questions.  Who would be allowed to review the tapes?  Can the condemned inmate object and prevent recording of his or her execution?  At what point in the execution would the taping begin?  While some people believe that the tapes should be viewed only by those directly involved in lethal injection litigation, others have discussed  using images of executions to demonstrate to the public that such executions often result in extremely painful deaths.  One blog went as far as to suggest that if routinely taped, lethal-injection executions may end up being broadcast to the public as “reality tv.”  While executions have never been aired in the US, executions have been televised in Guatemala in the past, and several terrorist groups have used the internet to publicly distribute footage of their hostages being executed.

The tape of Mr. DeYoung remains in judicial custody for now and is intended to assist a GA judge determine the constitutionality of Georgia’s lethal injection protocols.  Whether this tape (or future tapes) will be used for any other purposes remains to be seen.

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