December 17, 2004
ATTENDANCE AT EXECUTIONS
By: Christopher Reinhart, Senior Attorney
You asked whether a statute or regulation determines who attends executions.
CGS § 54-100 allows the following people to attend an execution:
1. the warden or deputy warden and necessary correctional staff;
2. the Department of Correction (DOC) commissioner;
3. a physician;
4. a clergyman attending the prisoner;
5. up to three other adults chosen by the prisoner;
6. nine news media representatives including newspapers, broadcasters, and news services who report on behalf of all news media (the commissioner can allow a greater number or reduce the number for specific space or security reasons); and
7. others deemed appropriate by the commissioner.
The commissioner determines the total number of witnesses based on space and security requirements and she can exclude a witness for specific security reasons.
The statutes also (1) create a committee on news media access to executions to receive applications and select members of the news media to witness and report on executions and (2) require the DOC commissioner to direct the institution warden to appoint a suitable person or people to perform the execution. A DOC directive sets requirements for selecting the execution team.
Choosing Media Witnesses
The statutes create a committee on news media access to executions to receive applications from members of the news media who want to witness and report on executions. The committee consists of the DOC commissioner or her designee and news media representatives appointed by the Associated Press Managing Editors Association of Connecticut and the Connecticut Associated Press Broadcasters Association. The committee selects applicants from each of the following three categories unless a category lacks qualified applicants:
1. newspapers, broadcasters, and news services regularly reporting general news of Connecticut;
2. newspapers and broadcasters near the location of the crime involved; and
3. newspapers and broadcasters that regularly cover the correctional institutions where, as determined by the DOC commissioner, the death penalty will be carried out.
The commissioner specifies the number of new media witnesses that space and security permit and promptly notifies the committee if any recommended witness will be excluded for a specific security reason (CGS § 54-100a).
Choosing Correctional Staff
The statutes also require the DOC commissioner to direct the institution warden to appoint a suitable person or people to perform the execution (CGS § 54-100). Under DOC Directive 6.15, the execution team consists of at least six primary members of correctional staff and at least six alternate members. The warden selects the staff from a previously identified pool. The warden screens, selects, and trains the staff and their identity is confidential and released on a “need-to-know” basis. The executioner is the person or people who initiate and control the flow of the lethal substances into the inmate's body, and they require training to the satisfaction of a practicing, licensed Connecticut physician.
The directive requires the director of programs and treatment or his designee to ensure to the satisfaction of a practicing, licensed Connecticut physician that a person or people are trained and qualified to (1) act as executioner and (2) insert an intravenous catheter into an appropriate vein. The director also ensures that a physician qualified to certify death is present at the execution.
The directive requires that at least two designated staff members are stationed in the witness observatory.