Friday, October 27, 2006

Media frenzy descends on Rolling's execution site

Alligator Writer

Danny Rolling's high-profile execution Wednesday drew considerably more media than recent executions.

TV, radio and print journalists from across the state convened in Raiford, a small town of about 200 people, to gather details about the serial killer's lethal injection.

About 20 big white media vans, their satellites jutting toward the sky, sat parked in a large lot across the street from the execution chamber where Rolling lived his final minutes.

Parts of the parking lot were surrounded by barbed wire. Herds of cows grazed less than 200 yards away.

Kristen Guilfoos, a UF telecommunications junior covering the execution for WRUF-AM, called the press setup a "media affront."

"It's almost ridiculous," she said. "It's like a media circus. I mean, look at all the trucks."

Rory O'Neill, a reporter for the wire service Metro Networks, said no one was on the scene when he first arrived at noon. At the 3 p.m. press conference, he counted 17 cameras and about 50 reporters and camera operators.

Compared to other executions, he said, there was a much greater presence of media and protestors.

"I've never seen a crowd of supporters," said O'Neill. "If you talk to people, they're angry."

Bridget Murphy, a reporter for The Florida Times-Union, said she'd been at the scene since 3 p.m.

"Look at all of these trucks. I haven't seen it like this since Hurricane Charley," she said as she walked briskly to a press conference after Rolling's death. She called the group of TV trucks "satellite city."

Chris Tisch, a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times, walked to the press conference after he witnessed the execution. He was one of the few reporters who had a seat to witness the execution, along with reporters from The Associated Press, The Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and several TV stations.

He said 47 witnesses, including 12 media professionals, watched Rolling's lethal injection.

At the press conference, the victims' family members spoke at a lectern topped with a large cluster of news microphones.

Tisch scribbled on a white legal pad and another reporter seated on the ground typed feverishly on her laptop.

Diana Hoyt and Theresa Ann Garren, both barely tall enough to look over the lectern, spoke solemnly to the music of snapping cameras and scribbling pens. When the stepmother and mother of victim Christa Hoyt stopped talking, a cacophony of questions sounded out.

However, some photographers unfortunate enough to be in the back aimed their questions at reporters blocking their view.

"Down," they yelled. "C'mon, get down in front, please?"

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