Washington Supreme Court stays Brown execution

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The state Supreme Court stayed the execution of Cal Coburn Brown on Thursday, just hours before he was to die for the murder of a 22-year-old woman. Brown, 50, was scheduled to die by lethal injection early Friday morning at the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla for the 1991 slaying of Holly Washa. In a 5-4 ruling, the high court, led by Justice Charles Johnson, stayed the execution while Brown’s case goes back to Thurston County Superior Court, where another Washington death row inmate, Darold Ray Stenson, was recently granted a May hearing on the constitutionality of Washington state’s lethal injection policy. Brown’s lawyers contended that it would be wrong to execute Brown before the issue was settled by the court. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said he was extremely frustrated and called the development “cruel and unusual punishment to the victim’s family.” The ruling came shortly after the conclusion of a three-hour hearing of the Washington State Clemency and Pardons Board. The board was split 2-2 on the question of whether Gov. Chris Gregoire should grant Brown’s request for a temporary reprieve or clemency from his execution. Since the board serves only an advisory function, any final decision would have come down to Gregoire. “I respect the decision of the Court in this deliberative process,” Gregoire said in a statement issued after the court’s decision. “This ruling merely delays the execution of Cal Coburn Brown,” Attorney General Rob McKenna said in a statement. “We believe the trial court will rule the state’s lethal injection protocol is constitutional.” Brown was convicted of carjacking Washa at knifepoint near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. He robbed, raped and tortured the young woman from the south Seattle suburb of Burien before stabbing and strangling her.Washa’s family called in to the clemency hearing to tell board members that they didn’t want any more delays in Brown’s execution. “We are looking for closure,” said Becky Washa, Holly Washa’s youngest sister. According to court documents, Brown suffers from bipolar disorder, but was not being treated at the time of the murder. Since 1994, prison staff have prescribed medication to control the condition. Brown was convicted of aggravated first-degree murder on Dec. 10, 1993, and sentenced to death 17 days later.