SAN FRANCISCO — Death row inmate Albert Greenwood Brown on Tuesday morning was handed a "death warrant" – the first such document delivered in more than five years – informing him his execution has been scheduled for Sept. 29.
Around the same time, Marin County Superior Court Judge Verna Adams was indefinitely extending the ban on executions in the state, saying "unless and until" she says otherwise, the prohibition remains in effect.
Prison officials said they will respect the judge's order if it is still in effect Sept. 29, but said they are forging ahead "operationally" as if the execution will occur as schedule.
New lethal injection procedures prison officials said went into effect Sunday are at the center of a long-simmering debate that came to a head Tuesday over whether to resume executions in California, which have been on hold since early 2006.
Prosecutors said new procedures adopted because of a death row inmate's lawsuit allow for the resumption of executions without the judge's approval. Christine Gasparac, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Jerry Brown, said the office will appeal Adams' order.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton said Albert Brown was served with his "death warrant" at 11 a.m. Tuesday for the Riverside County rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl abducted on her way home from school in 1980.
Thornton said prison officials continue to prepare for Albert Brown's execution despite the judge's order.
Deputy Attorney General Michael Quinn said Tuesday officials will soon seek to schedule the executions of five other inmates, including Michael Morales of Stockton. Morales was within hours of receiving a lethal injection for the rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl when U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel in 2006 halted his execution. Fogel ordered prison officials to revamp the state's lethal injection procedures in response to Morales' legal challenge alleging cruel and unusual punishment.
Since then, officials have constructed a new death chamber at San Quentin Prison and rewrote the execution procedures in 2007. Morales and another death row inmate, Mitchell Sims of Los Angeles, filed a separate lawsuit in Marin County in 2007 alleging the new procedures should be subjected to public comment and the state's time-consuming regulatory adopting process. A judge agreed and barred executions until the state properly adopted the new lethal injection regulations.
On Sunday, prison officials said those new regulations took effect.
But the judge, siding with the death row inmates, said no executions can go forward until she formally lifts the ban.