Witness list set for Sept. 10 Coburn execution

Among the 12 official witnesses for Cal Coburn Brown's planned execution are four members of his victim's family.


WALLA WALLA -- Four members of a murdered woman's family will witness her killer's death next month.

The family members will be among the 12 official witnesses approved to attend the execution for Cal Coburn Brown, which is scheduled to take place the early morning of Sept. 10 at Washington State Penitentiary. Other witnesses will be King County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Satterberg and seven members of the media.

If no court orders a stay, it will be the first execution since August 2001, when convicted murderer James Elledge died by lethal injection at the penitentiary.

Brown, 52, was convicted of raping, torturing and killing Holly Washa in a Sea-Tac hotel room in 1991. After leaving the 22-year old woman's body in the trunk of her car, he fled to California where he was arrested after being accused of another brutal sexual assault and murder.

The Washa family members witnessing the execution will be her father, John Washa, her brother, Roger Washa, and two sisters, Becky and Karen Washa. The sisters and brother were among the witnesses scheduled to watch Brown die on March 13, 2009, when that execution was stayed by the state Supreme Court only hours before it was to occur.

Satterberg will represent the judicial officers of King County, where Brown was tried and convicted.

The media witnesses will be Shannon Dininny of the Associated Press, Tom Durian of KHQ-TV, Elsaveta Loevsky of KNDU-TV, Patricia Murphy of KUOW public radio, Andy Porter of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, Liz Rocca of KOMO-TV and Jennifer Sullivan of the Seattle Times.

Penitentiary Superintendent Stephen Sinclair said there were no witness applications from l aw enforcement, Brown's defense counsel or members of his family.

Brown has until Thursday to decide if he wishes to die by lethal injection or opt for death by hanging. If he makes no choice, the execution will default to lethal injection, said Shari Hall, prison spokeswoman.

As Brown was facing execution last year, a sharply divided state Supreme Court voted 5-4 to halt the proceedings so he could join a lawsuit filed by fellow death row inmate Darold Stenson challenging the state's lethal injection protocol. A third inmate, Jonathan Gentry, was also allowed to join the suit in Thurston County Superior Court.

In July 2009, Judge Chris Wickham ruled the state's execution protocol was not "cruel" under the state Constitution. That decision was then appealed to the state Supreme Court.

As that appeal was pending, the Department of Corrections changed the execution method from a three-drug cocktail to a single-drug system. On July 29, the high court ruled unanimously to dismiss the challenges to the lethal injection protocol and, at the same time, lift the stay of execution in Brown's case. That action set the new execution date for Sept. 10.

The executions of Brown and Gentry have remained on hold pending litigation of other issues.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.


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