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Net-radio project enters death chambers

Recordings from Georgia's death chambers are broadcast over the Net on Wednesday as part of a public-radio examination of the execution process.

    Audio recordings from Georgia's death chambers will be broadcast over the Internet on Wednesday as part of a public-radio project to shed light on the execution process.

    Public-radio shows across the country will air an hour-long special that features tapes of executions, which were recorded between 1983 and 1998. Sound Portraits, the nonprofit radio production company that produced the show, also will stream the special and host an archive of it on its site beginning at 2 p.m. PDT Wednesday.

    "The public has a right to know precisely what goes on in an execution chamber," said Jamie York, a production assistant at Sound Portraits.

    The company also will archive execution tapes that were not used in the hour-long special. The program prepared for broadcast contains an actual execution, which lasts about 10 minutes, as well as tape of some botched executions and some final statements.

    The move comes as some Web sites have been fighting for the right to broadcast live from federal death chambers in Terra Haute, Ind., the execution of Timothy McVeigh, who was given the death penalty for killing 168 people in the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City six years ago.

    Entertainment Network, a for-profit company that runs sites such as Voyeurdorm.com, last month lost its court battle to stream the execution. A federal judge ruled that the company did not have a First Amendment right to broadcast it via the Web, and on Tuesday, Entertainment Network said it would not appeal.

    The Georgia Department of Corrections began audio recordings of its death chamber proceedings years ago to protect itself from legal liability. Several local news outlets have broadcast the tapes in recent years, said department spokesman Scott Stallings.

    "We've treated this for years as a matter of public record," Stallings said. However, the death penalty is once again a hotly debated topic, especially with McVeigh's May 16 execution approaching.

    Stallings said there are no plans to allow video cameras into Georgia's death chambers. Entertainment Network had asked to tap into a closed-circuit TV feed that will be set up for victims and their families during the McVeigh execution.