WASHINGTON -- January 21 -- Both supporters and opponents of the death penalty will be allowed to protest the scheduled execution of Michael Ross in Connecticut next week, after civil liberties groups and the state of Connecticut entered into a settlement in federal court this week. Previously, Connecticut officials had announced that both pro- and anti-death penalty protestors would be relegated to a remote field a mile and a half from the prison where the execution is scheduled to take place. The field is bordered by a very lightly traveled country road and is not visible from the front of the prison. Officials had stated their intention to close public roads leading to and from the prison, and to keep both media representatives and protestors more than a mile away from the execution site, possibly with the use of heavily armed guards.
In response, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty joined a federal lawsuit that sought to have the protest restrictions overturned as an infringement upon the First Amendment. On behalf of its state affiliate, the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty, NCADP joined Amnesty International USA, Murder Victims Families for Human Rights and a number of individual plaintiffs. NCADP and the plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. Theres no free speech if it cant been seen or heard, said Diann Rust-Tierney, NCADP executive director. We are relieved that regardless of ones position on the death penalty, the state of Connecticut will not be able to act outside of the public eye.
We can all agree that when the government executes its citizens, people should be able to debate this policy openly and in public not hidden in a rural field a mile and a half away. If Connecticut has nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed by, it should not try to stifle dissent and hide its protestors. When governments prepare to carry out executions, fundamental rights tend to fall by the wayside, Rust-Tierney said. In this case, it was the fundamental right to engage in protest that was at risk. At least this one fundamental right will remain in place as the result of this weeks consent decree. Ross is scheduled to be executed at 2:01 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26. It will be Connecticuts first execution in more than 40 years. To learn more about Ross's case and to take action against the scheduled execution, please visit http://www.demaction.org/dia/organizations/ncadp/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=293