The Ultimate Horror Show

A court hearing pits First Amendment rights against the fear of an electronic return to the rite of public execution

The voice-over is easy to script. "Robert Alton Harris was executed yesterday at San Quentin prison. He was the first California prisoner in 24 years to be put to death "

The video images are also easy to imagine. Harris being strapped to a chair. Cyanide pellets dropping into sulfuric acid. Fumes filling San Quentin's green-walled gas chamber. Harris gasping his final breaths, twitching.

Far more difficult to predict is how viewers will react to the video footage of the event. When -- and if -- the time comes, what will spectators do? Lean in toward the screen, fascinated? Cringe in...

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