Court rules for news groups in execution case

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A federal appeals court ruled Friday that witnesses should have full viewing access to Idaho's upcoming execution, siding with The Associated Press and 16 other news organizations.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the decision a day after hearing arguments in a lawsuit from the news groups seeking to change Idaho's protocol, saying it's unconstitutionally restrictive.

The case aims to strike down a portion of Idaho's regulations that prevent witnesses — including reporters acting as representatives of the public — from watching executions until after catheters have been inserted into the veins of death row inmates.

The lawsuit comes as lethal injections have drawn greater scrutiny, from whether the drugs are effective to whether the execution personnel are properly trained.

It's unclear how the ruling will affect the scheduled execution next week of Idaho death row inmate Richard Leavitt, who will be put to death by lethal injection. Leavitt was convicted of the 1984 murder of a Blackfoot woman.

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