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Alabama Reporter Barred from Execution For Too-Short Skirt

by Jo Ellen Nott

On July 28, 2022, news reported Ivana Hrynkiw Shatara had to borrow pants and change her shoes to attend the execution by lethal injection of a state prisoner, after officials with the Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC) decided her skirt was “too revealing” to admit her to the viewing area.

DOC personnel working at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility’s death chamber also called her open-toed heels “inappropriate” for viewing the killing of Joe Nathan James, who was condemned to die for the 1994 murder of Faith Hall, a mother of two he had dated. To gain access to the press viewing area for the execution, Shatara borrowed rain pants from a photographer and used suspenders to hold them up under her skirt, exchanging her heels for tennis shoes so that she could complete her reporting assignment.

Shatara, who works for the Alabama Media Group, which publishes the Birmingham News and statewide online news service, claims she has worn the same skirt, which falls about one and a half inches above her knees, to witness prior executions without being subject to an impromptu dress code violation. In an interview with the New York Post, the video reporter said, “At five feet-seven inches, and five feet-ten inches with my heels on, I am a tall and long-legged person.”

“I tried to pull my skirt to my hips to make the skirt longer but was told it was still not appropriate,” she added.  

Another female journalist, the Associated Press’s Kim Chandler, was also subjected to a dress-code check by prison staff but apparently was not required to modify her attire. Shatara said she was treated unfairly and embarrassed in front of a room full of people whom she mostly had never met. Despite covering executions in Alabama for ten years, she said she had never been told of a dress code. DOC’s published visitor policy does not cover the members of the press nor execution protocols, the reporter added.

Shatara took to Twitter to share her experience, admonishing the prison agency: “Going forward, if there is a dress code that is going to be enforced, members of the media need to be made aware before the day of the execution.”

Alabama Media Group said it would make a formal complaint to DOC about the incident.

Sources:  The Atlantic, New York Post  

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