Calif. Governor Postpones Execution
By JESSE McKINLEY and MALIA WOLLAN
Inmate Asks Court to Halt His Execution (September 27, 2010)
Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican in the final weeks of his administration, announced late Monday that he would postpone the execution of Albert G. Brown Jr. — who had been scheduled to die by lethal injection at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday — until Thursday to allow time for legal appeals to be exhausted. The state Department of Corrections has rescheduled the execution for Thursday evening, the governor’s office said.
Mr. Brown, 56, was convicted in 1982 of raping and strangling a 15-year-old girl in Riverside, Calif.
The postponement came after a whirlwind day in which Mr. Brown’s fortunes seemed to rise and fall with each passing hour. Earlier Monday, Mr. Brown had been denied a stay from a state judge, Verna A. Adams, in Marin County, where San Quentin State Prison is located.
Shortly after that denial state officials also made a surprise announcement that the execution would be the last in the state until the one of the drugs proposed for his execution — sodium thiopental, a barbiturate — could be restocked by the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Moreover, Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the department, said its supply of sodium thiopental was good only until Friday. That expiration date is now just hours after Mr. Brown’s planned execution on Thursday.
Ms. Thornton said her department was continuing with preparations for Mr. Brown’s execution and had enough sodium thiopental to stop Mr. Brown’s heart. She added that the state was “actively seeking supplies of the drug for future executions.”
How exactly sodium thiopental became scarce is unclear. The Food and Drug Administration reported shortages in March, citing production issues with Hospira, an Illinois-based company that is the sole American manufacturer.
A company spokesman, Dan Rosenberg, said that the drug was unavailable because of a lack of supply of an active pharmaceutical ingredient and that Hospira was working to get the drug back on the market by early next year. But Mr. Rosenberg also expressed displeasure that the drug — meant to be used as an anesthetic — had found its way into death chambers.
“Hospira manufactures this product because it improves or saves lives, and the company markets it solely for use as indicated on the product labeling,” Mr. Rosenberg said in a statement. “The drug is not indicated for capital punishment, and Hospira does not support its use in this procedure.”
He added that the company had made that opinion clear to corrections departments nationwide.
Mr. Brown’s execution was cleared on Friday by a federal district judge, Jeremy D. Fogel, who had effectively halted executions in the state in 2006 after expressing concern about a three-drug cocktail commonly used in lethal injection procedures and various deficiencies in the state’s methods, including the training of execution teams, antiquated facilities and the preparation of execution drugs.
Since then, however, California has drafted detailed new regulations — approved earlier this year — to guide executions and built a new death chamber at San Quentin, north of San Francisco.
Those developments had apparently quelled Judge Fogel’s worries enough to allow Mr. Brown’s execution to proceed.
Mr. Brown is still seeking a stay from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. His lawyer, John R. Grele, said Judge Fogel’s decision was “neither a legal nor rational response” to his client’s efforts to avoid execution or undue pain.