SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Attorney General Jerry Brown and his lawyers are demanding that executions resume in California as soon as next week in a push that marks a significant change of heart for the former outspoken death penalty opponent.
A judge halted executions in California in 2006 and ordered prison officials to overhaul lethal injection procedures. More than 700 killers now line death row in California, and Brown's office believes lethal injection regulations adopted last month will ensure that condemned inmates won't suffer "cruel and unusual punishment" when executed.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose, who imposed the execution moratorium, is scheduled to consider the government's argument Tuesday during a hearing.
Brown was a vocal opponent of the death penalty when he served as governor in the 1970s and '80s, once suggesting that banning capital punishment would elevate society to a "higher state of consciousness."
He vetoed the death penalty in 1977, and his chief justice appointee was removed from the bench in the 1980s for her constant overturning of death penalty convictions.
Brown has taken more moderate stances since he ran for attorney general in 2006 and vowed to "carry out the laws" of the state. He is now locked in a tight campaign for governor against Republican Meg Whitman, and his stance could defuse capital punishment as an exploitable issue in the race.
His name is now affixed at the top of new lethal injection procedures that California officials want to use to execute six inmates in the coming months at the San Quentin State Prison death chamber.
Prison officials provided a tour Tuesday to showcase recent upgrades at San Quentin, including separate eyewitness areas for the victim and inmate families, and a holding cell with a phone and flat-screen television.
Prison spokesman Lt. Sam Robinson said that the 2-year-old lethal injection facility is fully prepared to carry out the execution of convicted murderer Albert Greenwood Brown next Wednesday.
Prison officials have gone so far as to examine Albert Brown to ensure he has healthy enough veins for the insertion of tubes that will deliver the fatal drugs.
He was convicted of abducting, raping and killing a 15-year-old Riverside County girl in 1980, and received a death warrant on Aug. 31.
California has executed only 13 inmates since capital punishment resumed in the state in 1977, and its death row is by far the largest in the nation.
California attorneys say prison officials have constructed a new death chamber that is roomier and better lit than the previous facility, which Fogel found too cramped and dingy to legally carry out executions. Above all, prison officials said they have specially selected a well-trained staff to carry out the lethal injections, which require the proper handling of the three-drug cocktail used in the executions.
Albert Brown's lawyers are fighting to put off his execution and will argue Tuesday that the new lethal injection procedures differ little from the previous protocols the judge found objectionable. In particular, defense lawyer David Senior said he is concerned that the "lethal injection team" has been hastily selected with inadequate training.
State lawyers said the staff has been trained to conduct the executions without violating constitutional bans against inflicting cruel and unusual punishment.
Associated Press Writer Terry Collins contributed to this report from San Quentin.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.