Ex­e­cu­tion off

Al­bert Green­wood Brown Jr. gets re­prieve af­ter jus­tices refuse to al­ter ap­peals dead­line.

Los Angeles Times - - Latextra - Jack Leonard and Vic­to­ria Kim jack.leonard@latimes.com vic­to­ria.kim@latimes.com Times staff writer Maura Dolan con­trib­uted to this re­port.

A state Supreme Court de­ci­sion ends the le­gal wran­gling in the case for now.

Cal­i­for­nia’s ef­fort to carry out its first ex­e­cu­tion in nearly five years col­lapsed Wed­nes­day when the state Supreme Court ended a fu­ri­ous le­gal bat­tle, giv­ing a con­victed rapist and mur­derer a re­prieve that could last un­til at least next year.

The Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Corrections and Rehabilitation called off the ex­e­cu­tion hours af­ter the Supreme Court re­fused to change long-es­tab­lished ap­peals dead­lines to al­low the ex­e­cu­tion of Al­bert Green­wood Brown Jr. to pro­ceed.

The de­ci­sion ended more than a week of le­gal wran­gling be­tween Brown’s lawyers and the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice over whether the lethal in­jec­tion should be ad­min­is­tered.

Prison of­fi­cials had sched­uled Brown’s ex­e­cu­tion for 9 p.m. Thurs­day, just three hours be­fore the state’s only sup­ply of a key drug used in the lethal in­jec­tion ex­pires. State attorneys have said that fresh sup­plies of the pow­er­ful anes­thetic sodium thiopen­tal could not be ob­tained un­til at least next year.

The Supreme Court faulted the state for seek­ing to carry out the sen­tence so close to the drug’s ex­pi­ra­tion date, say­ing that ef­fort had “con­trib­uted to cir­cum­stances in­com­pat­i­ble with the or­derly res­o­lu­tion” of le­gal is­sues sur­round­ing the death penalty.

A corrections spokes­woman said her agency was seek­ing fresh sup­plies of the drug.

Jan B. Nor­man, one of Brown’s attorneys, said she was pleased that the process had been halted. She crit­i­cized the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice for fail­ing to dis­close that the state’s drug sup­ply was about to ex­pire un­til shortly be­fore Brown was to be ex­e­cuted.

“They had an obli­ga­tion both for my client and the vic­tim’s fam­ily to pro­ceed in an or­derly and dig­ni­fied way, and ev­ery­body suf­fered as a re­sult of that not hap­pen­ing,” Nor­man said.

Brown has spent 28 years on death row fol­low­ing his con­vic­tion in the 1980 rape and murder of a 15-year-old River­side girl who dis­ap­peared as she walked to school.

River­side County Dist. Atty. Rod Pacheco, whose of­fice pros­e­cuted Brown, de­scribed Wed­nes­day’s an­nounce­ment as a tragedy for the vic­tim’s fam­ily.

“The bot­tom line is that they didn’t get jus­tice to­day,” Pacheco said. “This sys­tem has de­nied them jus­tice.”

Gov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger, who ear­lier Wed­nes­day re­jected a clemency request for Brown, re­leased a state­ment de­scrib­ing the in­mate’s crimes as “heinous and un­con­scionable” and said the ex­e­cu­tion would be resched­uled once the court chal­lenges were re­solved.

“It is ab­surd that our le­gal sys­tem con­tin­ues to pre­vent the state from car­ry­ing out the will of the peo­ple,” Sch­warzeneg­ger said.

The state Supreme Court de­ci­sion sealed the end of a le­gal fight in which Brown’s attorneys had won the up­per hand ear­lier this week when a fed­eral judge stopped the ex­e­cu­tion to re­view the state’s new lethal in­jec­tion pro­ce­dures.

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fo­gel ef­fec­tively halted ex­e­cu­tions in 2006 fol­low­ing con­cerns that lethal in­jec­tions might have in­flicted sig­nif­i­cant pain, vi­o­lat­ing the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion’s guar­an­tee against cruel and un­usual pun­ish­ment. On Tues­day, Fo­gel ruled he needed time to ex­am­ine whether the state had prop­erly cor­rected its pro­ce­dures.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice asked a fed­eral ap­peals court Wed­nes­day to re­verse Fo­gel’s or­der but con­ceded de­feat af­ter the Cal­i­for­nia Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion.

The Supreme Court ruled that an­other in­mate’s chal­lenge to the state re­sum­ing ex­e­cu­tions is not yet of­fi­cially over. The state had asked the Supreme Court to fi­nal­ize an ap­peal court’s Sept. 20 rul­ing that cleared the way for ex­e­cu­tions to be­gin again if the in­mate, Mitchell Sims, had not filed an ap­peal by 5 p.m. Thurs­day.

But the Supreme Court re­jected that request, say­ing that Sims had the en­tire day to file his ap­peal. Af­ter that, the Supreme Court has an­other 30 days to de­cide on its own whether to re­view the ap­peal court’s de­ci­sion.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice “had ev­ery­body scram­bling,” said Lau­rie Leven­son, a pro­fes­sor at Loy­ola Law School and a for­mer pros­e­cu­tor who has not taken a pub­lic po­si­tion on the death penalty. “The Supreme Court is try­ing to put ev­ery­thing back in or­der, say­ing there are rules to be fol­lowed and there’s no way in time for the ex­e­cu­tion date that you guys asked for.”

KILLER:

Al­bert G. Brown Jr. has been on death row for 28 years.

VIC­TIM:

Su­san Jor­dan, 15, of River­side was raped and mur­dered in 1980.

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