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Crime, Law and Justice
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Execution Witnesses In Washington To See Needle Insertion

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California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
File photo of the execution chamber at San Quentin. A camera in the execution chamber at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla will record more of more of the execution process.

The next time a death row inmate is executed by lethal injection in Washington state, witnesses will see more of the process.

Washington’s Secretary of Corrections confirmed Wednesday that a closed circuit camera will capture the moment the needle goes in.

The change in Washington execution protocols follows a 2012 ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In that case, the Associated Press and several other news organizations challenged Idaho’s procedures – namely that witnesses were not allowed to see the IV lines go in – a stage in the process when technical problems can occur.

Immediately after the 2012 ruling, Idaho changed its procedures. Now Washington Secretary of Corrections Bernie Warner says he’s close to finalizing new procedures:

“That would allow for video viewing of witnesses to look at the entire execution process from insertion of the needle until the pronouncement of death,” says Warner.

Warner says the camera and video monitors are already in place in the execution chamber at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. He says the camera hangs from a ceiling and will not capture the faces of the execution team whose identity is kept secret.

Washington currently has nine inmates on death row, but no executions are currently scheduled.

Death row inmates in Washington have a choice between death by lethal injection or hanging. Oregon currently has a moratorium on executions.

The change in policy was first reported by the Associated Press.