New Republic explains why it published pictures from a botched execution

On Thursday, The New Republic published photos of Angel Diaz's body after his 2006 execution, "one of the worst botches since states began using lethal injection in the 1980s," Ben Crair writes.

He found the photos, taken by a medical examiner during Diaz' autopsy, "in the case file of Ian Lightbourne, a Florida death-row inmate whose lawyers submitted them as evidence that lethal injection poses an unconstitutional risk of cruel and unusual punishment."

The photos are hard to look at. The execution chemicals burned the skin on one of his arms -- a member of the Florida execution team incorrectly "pushed the catheters through both veins and into subcutaneous soft tissue" -- and it's begun to pull away. Another shows a swelling of his jugular veins that suggests he "slowly suffocated" instead of being rendered unconscious by the first drug he was administered.

"We took it really seriously," New Republic Editorial Director Mike Schaffer told Poynter in an email. The publication "made sure a bunch of people saw it in advance in order to make sure it didn't feel inappropriate." He continues: "We ultimately decided it was important to run even stuff people would rather not look at that helps our country understand a public issue that's back in the news."

Related: Oklahoman reporter Graham Lee Brewer talks about reporting on the botched execution of Clayton Derrell Lockett

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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