7th Circuit Upholds Ban on Death-Row Interviews

The 7th Circuit ruled Thursday that a death row inmate has no right to be interviewed by the media. The majority opinion is here (pdf).

The majority opinion in Hammer v. Ashcroft, written by Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, based its decision heavily upon the concept that the news media has "no constitutional right of access to prisons or their inmates beyond that afforded to the general public," citing Pell v. Procunier. However, in Hammer it was not a reporter, but a prisoner, who asserted a right to interview.

BOP instituted the ban in 2000 after Timothy McVeigh gave an interview to 60 Minutes. Hammer has quite an interesting history.

Since all federal death row inmates are housed at Terre Haute which is in the 7th Circuit, this ruling will apply to all of them.

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    After reading the links, (none / 0) (#1)
    by jeffinalabama on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 04:48:51 PM EST
    I don;t see how this is NOT a First Amendment violation by the 7th Circuit.

    Well, (none / 0) (#2)
    by jbindc on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 06:47:59 PM EST
    He can't have guns where he is (violation of 2nd amendment rights?), he may be searched and his property seized at will (violation of 4th amendment rights?), and he can't vote.  The 1st Amendment is not absolute (you can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater or incite violence with your speech), so this doesn't seem so out of bounds.  

    I assume (none / 0) (#3)
    by Fabian on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 07:45:17 PM EST
    that an inmate can publish their own writing.  I seem to remember more than one has due to the attention the writings have attracted, especially if they were published for profit.

    Media access doesn't seem essential if other venues for freedom of expression exist.