1st ex­e­cu­tion in new death cham­ber set for Sept. 29

Al­bert Green­wood Brown is sched­uled to be put to death via lethal in­jec­tion.

Los Angeles Times - - Latextra - Carol J. Wil­liams re­port­ing from san quentin, calif.

Pis­ta­chio vinyl cov­ers the gur­ney in the state’s new lethal in­jec­tion cham­ber, the only splash of color in a ster­ile white room where corrections of­fi­cials in­tend to put to death rapist-mur­derer Al­bert Green­wood Brown next week.

An El­gin clock, the only other fur­nish­ing, ticks above the death bed, track­ing the time to the first ex­e­cu­tion to be car­ried out in Cal­i­for­nia in nearly five years — un­less a judge moves to stop it.

The hexag­o­nal room sur­rounded by view­ing com­part­ments and a hold­ing cell where Brown is ex­pected to spend his last six hours were built to com­ply with a fed­eral court or­der that state of­fi­cials cor­rect de­fi­cien­cies in the ex­e­cu­tion reg­i­men. U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fo­gel halted the Fe­bru­ary 2006 ex­e­cu­tion of mur­derer Michael Morales af­ter hear­ing tes­ti­mony about in­ad­e­quate anes­the­sia and cramped con­di­tions in the for­mer gas cham­ber.

Fo­gel’s or­der set in mo­tion a le­gal duel be­tween those who want cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment prac­ticed in a state where two out of three cit­i­zens sup­port the ul­ti­mate penalty and those who op­pose ex­e­cu­tions on moral, re­li­gious and eco­nomic grounds and have used the hia­tus to chal­lenge its va­lid­ity in state and fed­eral court.

“We are fully pre­pared to carry out an ex­e­cu­tion on Sept. 29,” San Quentin State Prison War­den Vin­cent Cullen said as he ac­com­pa­nied jour­nal­ists on a tour of the fa­cil­ity housed in a cin­derblock an­nex to the prison’s teem­ing East Wing.

At 200 square feet, the lethal in­jec­tion cham­ber built with in­mate la­bor and $853,000 in tax­payer money is more than four times the size of the old metal-walled gas cham­ber used for two ex­e­cu­tions by lethal gas and 11 by lethal in­jec­tion since cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment was re­stored in 1977.

Vials of the three drugs used to ex­e­cute the con­demned are stored in a caged and locked re­frig­er­a­tor in the death cham­ber’s ad­ja­cent In­fu­sion Con­trol Room. Sodium thiopen­tal would be pumped through first, to anes­thetize the in­mate, then pan­curium bro­mide to par­a­lyze him and, fi­nally, potas­sium chlo­ride to stop his heart.

Two grom­meted holes in the wall on ei­ther side of the gur­ney would be threaded with tubes to carry the lethal in­fu­sions from the masked ex­e­cu­tion team in the con­trol room to the veins of the in­mate.

The in­mate would be re­strained by five black straps across the body and cuffs to steady his arms and an­kles. Four tan wall phones with red warn­ing lights stand ready to re­ceive calls from the gover­nor, the war­den, the state at-

tor­ney gen­eral and the U.S. Supreme Court, should a last-minute clemency be granted.

Fo­gel has yet to in­spect the new death cham­ber or re­view the re­vised ex­e­cu­tion pro­ce­dures drafted by the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Corrections and Rehabilitation over the last three years and ap­proved by a state agency in July. But depart­ment spokes­woman Terry Thorn­ton pointed out Tues­day that the Morales case wasn’t a class ac­tion on be­half of all death row in­mates and posed no bar­rier to Brown’s sched­uled death by lethal in­jec­tion.

The war­ren of rooms be­ing read­ied for their first use are silent, in stark con­trast with the grunts and shouts and thun­der­ous foot­falls em­a­nat­ing from the con­certina-wire-en­closed rooftop recre­ation yard where max­i­mum-se­cu­rity in­mates ex­er­cise high above the sparkling wa­ters of San Fran­cisco Bay. A fog-shrouded sky­line is vis­i­ble on the hori­zon.

Lethal in­jec­tion is the “de­fault” method of ex­e­cu­tion in Cal­i­for­nia, with the gas cham­ber still avail­able and fully func­tional if a con­demned pris­oner should choose that over lethal in­jec­tion, said Lt. Sam Robin­son, pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer for San Quentin.

Brown’s at­tor­ney, Jan B. Nor­man of Los An­ge­les, has pe­ti­tioned Gov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger to grant her client a re­prieve so that the next gover­nor can con­sider the pris­oner’s request for clemency. Sch­warzeneg­ger, who leaves of­fice in Jan­uary, has said he wants to re­sume ex­e­cu­tions as soon as pos­si­ble.

Nor­man crit­i­cized the rapid-fire moves to re­sume ex­e­cu­tions since the new pro­to­cols were adopted six weeks ago and ac­cused the gover­nor and his lawyers of “a head­long rush to ex­e­cute as many peo­ple as quickly as pos­si­ble and to sab­o­tage the abil­ity of in­mates’ coun­sel to re­spond.”

Brown, who raped and mur­dered a 15-year-old girl in 1980, is one of 708 Cal­i­for­nia pris­on­ers on death row, in­clud­ing 18 women. Only a hand­ful have ex­hausted all ap­peals and are el­i­gi­ble to be is­sued death war­rants.

A state ap­peals court on Mon­day lifted an in­junc­tion against ex­e­cu­tions that had been im­posed by a Marin County judge, clear­ing away the last le­gal hur­dle to ful­fill­ing the death war­rant is­sued by a River­side County judge for 56-year-old Brown.

Wally Skalij

RE­VAMPED: Lt. Sam Robin­son, press in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer, is re­flected at the cen­ter of the win­dow of the lethal in­jec­tion cham­ber at San Quentin. The fa­cil­ity was re­mod­eled to com­ply with a court or­der.

PRISON: Re­straints hang from gur­ney. The fa­cil­ity cost $853,000 and was built with in­mate la­bor.

Wally Skalij

READY: Death row in­mates would be strapped to this gur­ney in the lethal in­jec­tion cham­ber, and three drugs would be ad­min­is­tered in­tra­venously. Al­bert Green­wood Brown is sched­uled to be ex­e­cuted Sept. 29.

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