Recording of execution in Georgia likely to lead to similar requests in Texas

SMU Law Professor Megan Ryan discusses videotaping executions.

By Diane Jennings

The video recording of an execution in Georgia is expected to inspire a flurry of requests from attorneys to have Texas executions recorded.

When Andrew DeYoung received lethal injection in Georgia on Thursday for killing his parents and sister, prison officials, attorneys, and reporters gathered to witness the execution as usual. But someone else was also present: a videographer who recorded the procedure because of a court order sought by another condemned inmate.

Such recordings could be used to gather evidence on whether the administration of the lethal drugs is cruel and unusual punishment. But death penalty experts say they doubt the requests will make much headway in the battle against lethal injection. . .

Meghan Ryan, a law professor at Southern Methodist University who specializes in cruel and unusual punishment issues covered in the Eighth Amendment, said she’s not sure if recording executions is a good idea or not.

“It’s useful in the fact that it can give some evidence to the procedure followed in the death chamber,” she said. But, “there’s an issue of human dignity. The Supreme Court, when it talks about cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, emphasized the value of human dignity. And I think it’s somewhat questionable that a defendant’s human dignity is really taken into account if the execution is videotaped — especially if they object.”

Up until 1920, many executions — by hanging — were public in Texas. “People saw executions as entertainment,” Ryan said.

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