Judge Blocks San Quentin Execution Set For Thursday

SAN QUENTIN (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday blocked what would have been California’s first execution in nearly five years, giving a death row inmate who was two days from receiving a lethal injection a reprieve that could last months.

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel canceled Albert Greenwood Brown’s execution after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered him to apply different legal standards than the ones he used last week when he cleared the way for Brown to be put to death.

Fogel said he halted the execution scheduled for 9 p.m. Thursday because he didn’t have enough time “to render a reasoned decision and permit adequate appellate review.”

The judge said Brown’s lawyers had “raised substantial questions of fact as to whether at least some of the deficiencies” in California’s lethal injection process that prompted Fogel to halt California executions in 2006 remained.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office said an appeal would be filed Wednesday.

Time is of the essence because of a nationwide shortage of a key drug used in executions. California’s entire stock of sodium thiopental has an expiration date of Friday, and state officials say no executions can be carried out until they receive a new shipment early next year.

“The attorney general’s office will continue to vigorously advance the governor’s position,” state Attorney General Jerry Brown said in a brief phone interview after a debate with Republican Meg Whitman, his opponent in the race to succeed Schwarzenegger.

The three-judge appeals panel that ordered Fogel to reconsider on Monday said “it is incredible to think that the deliberative process might be driven by the expiration date of the execution drug.” That same panel will consider the governor’s appeal.

In his nine-page decision Tuesday, Fogel noted that the attorney general’s office never told him that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was running short of sodium thiopental. He said the shortage is significant because “it appears that there is an insufficient quantity of the drug available to permit the pre-execution training and mixing described in the regulations.”

Santa Clara University law professor Ellen Kreitzberg said it is unlikely the 9th Circuit will overturn Fogel, given its reluctance Monday to allow the execution to proceed.

“It is unfortunate that the victim’s families were put through this emotional roller coaster,” Kreitzberg said.

Albert Brown was sentenced to death for abducting, raping and killing 15-year-old Susan Jordan of Riverside County in 1980. Jordan’s sister, Karen Brown, was planning to witness the execution. Her husband said she was “pretty upset” with Fogel’s ruling.

Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco’s office did not immediately return a call for comment.

Earlier in the day, Albert Brown’s attorneys attacked the narrow window of opportunity for the execution because of the drug shortage as having a “Cinderella quality.”

“It appears they were so desperate to execute that they were seeking dates of execution even when they knew they wouldn’t have the drugs to perform them, or were unaware of this,” Albert Brown’s attorney David Senior wrote earlier Tuesday. “It is hard to figure out which is worse.”

Deputy Attorney General Michael Quinn, the lead government attorney handling the execution, said he didn’t know when prison officials had told him of the problem with the sodium thiopental. Quinn declined further comment and referred calls to the attorney general’s press office, which in turn referred questions to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Department spokeswoman Terry Thornton declined to comment.

In his filing to Fogel, Quinn didn’t address the issue of expiring drugs. Instead, he urged the judge to allow the execution to proceed, arguing the state’s new lethal injection regulations protect inmates from pain.

It was Fogel who ordered a halt to California executions in 2006 and ordered prison officials to overhaul the lethal injection process.

Prison authorities responded by building a new death chamber, overhauling the way executions teams are selected and trained, and making several other changes to the state’s lethal injection procedures to comply with Fogel’s order.

(© 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Rob Rinzler

    There certainly must be plenty of other drugs that can anesthetize a person just as well. Why not ask Michael Jackson’s doctor if he has any left.

    • Tony

      If your not going to kill him, than put him in the general population I am sure one of the prisoners would off him, you don’t kill kids and get away with it in prison. You could also walk him across the street to the gun range, I am sure there would be plenty of volunteers to complete the task.

  • Teena

    Why not get it over with already, no one asked the little girl if she felt pain or even if she wanted to die that day! One less mouth to feed in the system, give our taxes a break.!!!

  • Eric Carby

    Grill the no good SOB he killed and raped 15 year old girl fior God sake. I’ll be happy to light the fire. He is a coward and needs to be cut into little pieces alive

  • weird boy

    JUST GET IT OVER WITH!!!! Who cares if hes gonna feel pain, he DESERVES it, if i was in charge, i would just let him drink bleach and other chemicals, just so he could feel PAIN!

  • E.H.

    Back to the gas chamber or consider the Utah approach…Firing Squad.

    Lets get this chucklehead over and done with and move Richard Wad Farley up the line. He is on death row for killing 7 of my coworkers at ESL / TRW.

    Enough of the reviews and delays alread!

  • ickabod

    Noonne has a right to take a life. The message sent here is it is ok , as they take the llife of a mentally disabled man. Why is Scott Peterson still alive?


      I think Scott Peterson is dead.

  • tedhead

    what are they afraid the drug might kill him. shot the s.o.b.

  • Frank

    These judges do this to make a name for themselves. Look a t the poles. Most everyone wants it done. We the people have lost all control. The special interest groups have all the control. We pay welfare to these people so the don’t have to work. They have all the time in the world boycott everything that is right & just to get there self serving recognition.

  • Shimmy

    I can’t believe this evil piece of sh&* is still alive. PUT HIM TO DEATH NOW and in the worst way. Actually they should just get all the monsters on death row and take them behind the prison and execute them. Make it painful. I am so sick of hearing that these monsters have rights. They lost their rights once they choose to take someone else’s life so brutally. This judge is just as evil.

  • Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    Just bring back public hangings. Rope is cheap, has no expiration date and can be used over for the next to die!

  • Mark

    I’m disgusted with all of this misplaced hand wringing over the inhumanity of the death penalty. If you ask me, Mr. Brown should raped and then beaten to death by a bigger, badder inmate. Now THAT would be justice. Either that or the victim’s family should be allowed to stone him to death. He gave up his rights to humane treatment when he raped and murdered that poor 15 year old girl, and should have been put to death 28 years ago!!!

  • Mark

    Furthermore, what about the unending suffering of the victim’s family and friends? They have had to deal with the fact that her killer still lives more that 28 years after being lawfully convicted and sentenced to death. Doesn’t that pain deserve some consideration? They will suffer from the loss forever, but at least the state could offer some closure by executing that worthless piece of meat.

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