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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: lethal injection

GU professor protests at killer’s execution

(AP) A law professor at Gonzaga University who drove to Walla Walla from Spokane to protest the execution of Cal Coburn Brown told the Associated Press she was embarrassed by Brown’s mandated fate. 

“I want to make a very strong statement to the citizens of Washington and to Gov. Gregoire that many of us are opposed to killing people in our names,” said Mary Pat Treuthart, 57. “And I’m angry, saddened, and embarrassed that the U.S. is still using the death penalty to punish anyone for their crimes.”

Treuthart joined about two dozen people opposed to capital punishment inside a gated area outside the prison where Brown was executed early today. (Treuhart is pictured, with Nancy Nelson, also of Spokane, at the protest Thursday night in Walla Walla. Trehart is at the left, Nelson is at the right.)

A separate gated area for death penalty supporters drew three people. Construction worker Mark Clark, 36, of Kennewick, said he thought for several days about coming to the execution. 

“My thought is you’ve got to pay for what you’ve done,” Clark said. “You’ve got to be accountable for your actions.”

Brown (right) was executed for 1991 rape, torture and murder of 21-year-old Holly Washa. Brown confessed to killing Washa during an interrogation in California for an alleged assault on a woman there. He later led authorities to Washa’s battered body, which was inside the trunk of a car.

 Brown met Washa near Sea-Tac airport in Washington when he helpfully pointed to Washa’s rear tire, indicating a problem. When she stopped to check it out, he carjacked her at knifepoint.

For the next 36 hours, Brown robbed, raped and tortured Washa, before stabbing and strangling her.

University Ministry and Catholic Charities sponsored a vigil against the death penalty Thursday night at Gonzaga University’s Crosby Center. The Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane organized a nondenominational ceremony followed by another vigil on the steps of the Spokane County Courthouse.

Brown was the first Washington inmate to die by a one-drug lethal injection.

Brown spent much of Thursday talking on the telephone with his attorneys and family members, said Belinda Stewart, communications and outreach director for the state Department of Corrections.

His last meal included meat pizza and apple pie.

  “He is resigned to what is going to happen tonight,” Stewart said Thursday. “He’s aware, he knows and he’s resigned.”

Washa’s father, brother and two sisters of witnessed the execution, as did King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg (left).

Just before his execution, Brown protested sentencing disparities, saying that criminals who had killed many more people, such as Green River killer Gary Ridgway, were serving life sentences while he received a death sentence. 

“I only killed one victim,” he said. “I cannot really see that there is true justice. Hopefully, sometime in the future that gets straightened out.”

Brown did not apologize to the family of the victim, but said he understood their emnity for him. He said he forgave that hatred, held no emnity toward them and hoped the execution would give them closure. He also said the prison staff had been most professional and that he had no complaints about his treatment there in 17 years.

After his comments, Brown, who was lying on his back strapped to a gurney, looked up at the tubes sticking out of the wall and connected to his body. When the drug was administered, his chest heaved three times and his lips shuddered, then there was no movement.

The Washa family showed little emotion during the execution. Both sisters sat in the front row holding unopened tissue boxes, while brother Roger sat in the back with his father, his arms folded across his chest.

“Closure has finally come to the family,” said John Washa, Holly’s father, of Ogallala, Neb. “Why he did what he did to my daughter Holly I guess I’ll never understand.” (Holly’s mother is pictured left in 2009)

“Now it’s finally over, I don’t have to think about him anymore,” said sister Becky Washa of Sioux Falls, S.D., as family members held a picture of the victim.

Brown’s attorney and members of his family were not present at the execution, though he spoke with them by phone on Thursday.

Brown was the first Washington inmate to die by a one-drug lethal injection. His was the fifth execution since 1993, and the third in a row by lethal injection. All the others were by hanging.

Read an Associated Press story about the executions by clicking the link below.

State prepares for 1st execution since ‘01

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — In a state where executions are uncommon, Cal Coburn Brown’s lethal injection on Friday will be the first time since 2001 that Washington has carried out its capital punishment. 

Barring a last-minute stay of execution from the state or U.S. Supreme Court, the 52-year-old will become the first death row inmate in the state to die by a one-drug method of execution, a recently changed protocol from a three-drug cocktail. Washington is the second state in the nation, after Ohio, to change to the one-drug method.

Gov. Chris Gregoire on Wednesday denied clemency for Brown, who had petitioned for his death sentence to be commuted to a life sentence.

The governor said she found “no basis to change the death sentence that was imposed by the jury in accordance with the laws of our state.”

The state Supreme Court also denied a stay, though Brown’s attorneys immediately asked for an emergency stay and another review. An appeal challenging the qualifications of the state’s execution team is before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Eighteen months ago, Brown, who was convicted in the 1991 murder of Seattle-area woman Holly Washa was just hours from a lethal injection when he received a stay of execution. (Washa’s sister, Becky Washa, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is pictured outside the Washington State Penitentiary in March 2009 with a picture of her slain daughter)

The state Supreme Court granted the stay because another inmate had been granted a hearing on the constitutionality of the state’s lethal injection policy. Since then, Washington’s execution method has changed, as has the four-member team assigned to carry out the injection.

The previous team resigned, fearing its members might be identified after several inmates challenged the state’s previous method and questioned the qualifications of the execution team.

Read the rest of the AP story by clicking the link below.

Past coverage:

July 29, 2010: Wash. Supreme Court lifts stay of execution for Brown

March 12, 2009: Wash. Supreme Court stays Brown execution

June 5, 2007: U.S. Supreme Court reinstates killer’s death sentence

Lethal injection under attack

Three death row inmates are seeking greater assurances that they won’t feel any improper pain and suffering when they’re executed. The lawsuit, being argued in Thurston County Superior Court, questions whether the state’s execution procedures are sufficient.

Lawyers defending the state in the case note that Washington’s procedures are substantially similar to those used in Kentucky, whose execution methods have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

An AP story about the case is available in the full post.

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