Cal Brown put to death early Friday morning


by Drew Mikkelsen, Associated Press & KING 5 News

Posted on September 8, 2010 at 4:14 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 6:54 PM

WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Convicted killer Cal Coburn Brown was executed early Friday by lethal injection for the rape, torture and murder of a Seattle-area woman, after delivering a statement forgiving the victim's family for hating him but complaining he was treated unfairly by the legal system.

Brown, 52, died at 12:56 a.m. PDT, after a four-member team injected a lethal one-drug cocktail in the execution chamber of the Washington State Penitentiary.

The father, brother and two sisters of his victim, Holly Washa, 21, witnessed the execution, as did King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg.

Brown protested sentencing disparities, saying that criminals who had killed many more people, such as Green River killer Gary Ridgway, were serving life sentences while he received a death sentence.

"I only killed one victim," he said. "I cannot really see that there is true justice. Hopefully, sometime in the future that gets straightened out."

Brown did not apologize to the family of the victim, but said he understood their emnity for him. He said he forgave that hatred, held no emnity toward them and hoped the execution would give them closure. He also said the prison staff had been most professional and that he had no complaints about his treatment there in 17 years.

After his comments, Brown, who was lying on his back strapped to a gurney, looked up at the tubes sticking out of the wall and connected to his body. When the drug was administered, his chest heaved three times and his lips shuddered, then there was no movement.  

The Washa family showed little emotion during the execution. Both sisters sat in the front row holding unopened tissue boxes, while brother Roger sat in the back with his father, his arms folded across his chest.

"Closure has finally come to the family," said John Washa, Holly's father, of Ogallala, Neb. "Why he did what he did to my daughter Holly I guess I'll never understand."

"Now it's finally over, I don't have to think about him anymore," said sister Becky Washa of Sioux Falls, S.D., as family members held a picture of the victim.

Brown's attorney and members of his family were not present at the execution, though he spoke with them by phone on Thursday.

Brown was moved Thursday afternoon to a special cell one floor away from the execution room.

Prison officials said Brown brought 15 personal photos, a writing pad, five envelopes, a pen, a book, an address book and two pair of reading glasses to the holding cell. He had no visitors Thursday, but did receive a visit earlier in the week from an aunt and uncle from California, said Belinda Stewart, communications and outreach director for the state Department of Corrections.

Brown spent much of Thursday talking on the telephone with his attorneys and family members, Stewart said. His last meal was a combination meat pizza, apple pie, coffee and milk, Stewart said.

"He is resigned to what is going to happen tonight," Stewart said. "He's aware, he knows and he's resigned."

The U.S. Supreme Court, the state Supreme Court, U.S. District Court in Seattle and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday denied separate requests to halt Brown's execution.

About two dozen people opposed to capital punishment gathered outside the prison. A separate barricaded area for death penalty supporters remained empty.

Mary Pat Treuthart, 57, a law professor at Gonzaga University, drove from Spokane to protest the execution.

"I want to make a very strong statement to the citizens of Washington and to Gov. Gregoire that many of us are opposed to killing people in our names," she said. "And I'm angry, saddened, and embarrassed that the U.S. is still using the death penalty to punish anyone for their crimes."

Brown would be the first Washington inmate to die by a one-drug lethal injection.

He was just hours from being injected with a three-drug cocktail in March 2009 when he received a last-minute stay of execution. The state Supreme Court granted the stay because another inmate had been granted a hearing on the constitutionality of the state's lethal injection method.

Since then, Washington changed to a one-drug execution method and named a new four-member team to carry out the death sentence. Members of the team have not been publicly identified.

The previous team resigned, fearing they might be identified after several inmates challenged the state's three-drug method and questioned the executioners' qualifications.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, who has steadfastly supported the death sentence in this case, witnessed the execution.

"It's important for me to be there, first to be with the family, who has been through every step of this case for the last 19 years," he said. "It's important for me too, if we have a death penalty in this state, to not shy away from the ultimate administration of that sentence. I feel I need to be there to represent the system."

Brown confessed to kidnapping Holly Washa, of Burien, Wash., at knifepoint, then raping, torturing and killing her. He left her body in the trunk of a car.

Brown confessed while California authorities were interrogating him over an attack on a woman there.

"His demeanor -- that's what struck us. And his lack of remorse," said Lt. Al Franz of the Palm Springs police department, one of the investigators who first interviewed Brown in California.

"This is a violent individual, and he was just very, very calm while he was telling his story," Franz said. "The lack of remorse was pretty incredible to me. The way he spoke about his victims, they weren't people to him."

Originally from San Jose, Calif., Brown has a history of violent crime. He was convicted of assaults in California and Oregon, and served seven years in an Oregon prison. Brown was released on parole just two months before Washa's death in 1991.

Since 1904, 77 men have been put to death in Washington. The last inmate executed was 58-year-old James Homer Elledge, who died by lethal injection for the 1998 stabbing and strangulation of Eloise Fitzner, 47, at the Lynnwood church where he was a janitor.

Seven men are now on death row at the state penitentiary.



Opponents of the execution were staging several vigils Thursday night around the state.

One took place in Olympia on the steps of the state capitol, another vigil took place earlier in Seattle at the King County courthouse.

Additional vigils took place in Walla Walla, at Gonzaga University in Spokane and in Tacoma.