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State High Court Ruling Shuts Door On San Quentin Execution

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Albert Brown execution chamber San Quentin death row

The execution chamber on Death Row at San Quentin State Prison. (inset) Albert Brown.

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SAN FRANCISCO (BCN/AP) – California has called off its scheduled Thursday execution following setbacks in both federal and state courts.

The attorney general’s office said in a court filing Wednesday that it can no longer try to proceed with the lethal injection of Albert Greenwood Brown this week. It would’ve been California’s first since 2006.

The seven justices of the California high court also turned down an emergency petition by lawyers for the state asking that they set a deadline of 5 p.m. Thursday for an appeal in a separate state court case.

In that case, two other death row inmates, Mitchell Sims and Michael Morales, won a Marin County Superior Court injunction barring all executions in the state until there was public review of the state’s lethal injection execution protocol.

A state appeals court on Sept. 20 ordered an end to the injunction, but the inmates have 10 days – or until Thursday – to appeal and, under court rules, the appeal can be filed as late as 11:59 p.m. If no appeal is filed, the state Supreme Court itself has 20 more days to consider whether to review the case.

The injunction remains in effect during the appeal process.

Meanwhile, the state’s supply of one of the drugs used inexecution will expire on Friday, meaning that the execution cannot be carried out after Thursday. Authorities don’t expect to obtain more of the drug until 2011.

The state Supreme Court in a three-page order refused to alter its deadline rules.

“No compelling reason appears why this court should, by extraordinary means, remove an obstacle to Brown’s execution by denying litigant Sims his full normal time to petition for review in this court, or by cutting short its own jurisdictional time to grant or order review” in the case, the court said.

The seven justices said that by scheduling the execution for this week, “the state has itself contributed to circumstances incompatible with the orderly resolution, pursuant to normal procedures, of pending legal issues in connection with executions under the new regulations.”

Because the case before the court concerns state law, the California Supreme Court has the final word and its order can’t be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawyers in the case were not immediately available for comment.

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