Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 4
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

First state execution in near decade scheduled for Friday

On Friday, Mar. 13 murderer Cal Coburn Brown, 50, is slated for execution at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla in what will be the state’s first lethal injection since 2001.

As of publication, Brown’s execution is still set for the earliest minutes of tomorrow morning. He will undergo lethal injection as close to 12:01 a.m. as possible, if his case is not stayed.

A stay of execution is a court-ordered postponement of an execution. A stay will only be granted if a Washington judge hears Brown’s appeal and sides in his favor.  

Before the inmate sentenced to the death penalty (ISDP) is executed, the Penitentiary Assistant Secretary must check if any stays have been granted. This final confirmation occurs even after the ISDP has been placed in restraints in preparation for his execution.

This past Monday, the Washington state Supreme Court denied two appeals by Brown’s attorneys.  

Yesterday afternoon, the Thurston County Superior Court denied another one of Brown’s appeals. According to an article in The Seattle Times, Seattle attorney Gil Levy argued that lethal injection qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment. Levy filed the denied appeal for Brown and another convicted murder, Jonathan Lee Gentry.  

According to a press release from the Washington State Office of the Attorney General, at least two possibilities remain for Brown to escape Friday’s execution.

Yesterday, Brown filed a motion for discretionary review with the Washington State Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision later today.

In addition, the Washington State Clemency & Pardons Board will hear Brown’s request for clemency at 1 p.m. this afternoon. The five-member board will then make a recommendation to Washington governor Christine Gregoire, suggesting that she grant or deny Brown’s request for clemency.

Brown was sentenced to death in December 1993 for the 1991 murder of Holly Washa. Brown admitted to raping, stabbing, torturing and strangling Washa, a 21-year old woman from Burien, Wash.

According to the Associated Press, only five men have been executed in Washington since 1963.  

Brown will undergo lethal injection by default.

An ISDP has the option of death by hanging or by lethal injection. The offender must submit a request in writing at least two weeks prior to his execution date if he wishes to die by hanging. Since Brown did not make such a request, he will be executed by lethal injection.

Andy Porter, a reporter for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, will serve as one of eight news media witnesses at the execution.  

“You’re there to observe, you’re there to take notes, you’re there to act as the public eye,” said Porter of his role as a witness.  

Following Brown’s death, Porter will write a news article for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin about the execution.

Other witnesses include the victim’s two sisters and brother.  

In a Mar. 9 letter to the Thurston County judge, Washa’s family and friends pleaded for Brown’s execution.

“Please let Holly rest in peace and let everyone else have some closure. I know we cannot erase it out of our memories but knowing justice has been done and that [Brown] can never do this to another person will help ease our minds,” wrote Washa’s family.

Brown’s execution is especially relevant for campus groups such as the Whitman College Prison Research Group (WCPRG) and Whitman Civil Liberties Union (WCLU).

The WCPRG spent a significant portion of its Mar. 2 meeting discussing Brown’s execution and the philosophy behind the death penalty.  

According to Pete Parcells, Associate Professor of Economics and a leader of the group, WCPRG as an organization will not protest Brown’s execution or come out to support it.

“We’re a-political,” said Parcells. “We don’t take a stand against capital punishment or for capital punishment: we just analyze it.”

Although the group as an organization is impartial, its members hold different viewpoints about the morality of the death penalty.

“This guy is being killed and it’s being supported by the government,” said Julie Irvine, a sophomore in the WCPRG.   “Is it ever really just to kill someone? I don’t know.”

Some Whitman students, such as junior Kelli Kuhlman, fiercely protest capital punishment.  

“For as long as I can remember I’ve been against the death penalty. It’s my moral belief that no one should be sentenced to death, regardless of his crime,” said Kuhlman.  

Kuhlman plans to attend Brown’s peace vigil outside of the penitentiary. If the execution goes through, the peace vigil will be held concurrently with Brown’s execution.  

In the past few months two other convicted murderers received stays, postponing their executions. Dwayne A. Woods was granted a stay in mid-February, more than a month before his Mar. 20 execution date. Darold Ray Stenson was scheduled to die on Dec. 3, 2008 but was granted two stays just a week before his execution.  

According to The Seattle Times, the U.S. District Court granted Stenson a stay due to a physical ailment. Stenson’s attorneys argued that his Type 2 Diabetes might make lethal injection so painful that it would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

More information about the peace vigil can be found by e-mailing Kelli Kuhlman at [email protected]. Washington’s capital punishment policy can be found online  under policy number 490.200.

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