Thursday, August 26, 2010

Execution Ban Lifted in Washington state

Killer Scheduled to be Executed in Spetmeber, First Execution Since 2001

The state of Washington has lifted its de facto moratorium on executions. A recent state Supreme Court decision rejected an argument that the state's method of lethal injection amounted to cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

According to the Seattle Times, a unanimous opinion written by Justice Debra Stephens, lifted a stay of execution for death-row inmate, Cal Coburn Brown. His execution is scheduled for September 10. The ruling puts Brown on the road to being the first person executed in Washington since 2001.

Brown was convicted of raping, torturing and killing a woman in a Seattle hotel in 1991, before leaving her body in the trunk of her car. He was arrested in California after being accused of another brutal sexual assault and murder.

Brown's appeal, which was joined by two other condemned inmates, had put a hold on executions for the past year as the case wound through the courts.

During Brown's trial he argued that a single drug method of execution was more humane that the current three drug process. The trial judge found that the three drug method did not violate the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment.

However, before the case reached the Supreme Court, Washington changed its method of execution to the "Ohio method" or the single drug method. Ohio became the first state to move to a single drug method. The single lethal dose of sodium thiopental, an anesthetic, has been used without problems in eight Ohio executions.

According to the Times, the new policy makes one-drug lethal injection the primary method of death, but also allows the inmate to choose the three-drug method, or hanging. Since Washington reinstituted the death penalty in 1975, the state has executed four killers. There are currently eight men on Washington's death row.

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