WALLA WALLA -- The appeals took years. The death took only minutes.
Cal Brown, 52, died early today at Washington State Penitentiary after being injected with a lethal dose of sodium thiopental. It was the fifth execution in Washington state since 1993 and the first performed by the one-drug method.
Watched by the father, brother and sisters of Holly Washa, whom he tortured, raped and murdered in 1991, Brown made a final statement in which he forgave the family of his victim for hating him, but complained about being treated unfairly by the legal system. He did not, however, apologize to the family.
"I have to say I understand your feelings and your enmity and your hatred toward me," Brown said as he lay strapped to a gurney and covered with a bright green blanket. "I hold no enmity towards you. I forgive you for your feelings of hatred towards me. I hope the actions taken tonight give you the closure you seek."
After saying the prison staff has treated him "most professionally" in the 17 years he's been incarcerated, Brown then protested the "disparity" between the death penalty he received and the life sentences of killers such as Gary Ridgeway, the Green River Killer.
"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."
After finishing, Brown straightened his head and closed his eyes. Prison Superintendent Steve Sinclair, who was beside Brown, gave the signal to proceed. As the drug flowed into his veins, his chest heaved three times and then he was still. He uttered no sound audible to onlookers.
The family members remained stoic during the execution. Washa's sisters, Becky and Karen Washa, sat in the front row of seats reserved for the family, both clutching unopened boxes of tissues to their chest. Washa's father, John Washa, and her brother, Roger Washa, sat behind them. The only show of emotion came from Becky, who nodded when Brown's death was announced.
The remaining witnesses in the high-ceilinged witness room were King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg and seven members of the print and broadcast media.
The media witnesses were the last to be escorted to the execution chamber, arriving about 12:45 a.m. Once Brown had ceased to show any sign of life, the blind was lowered and shortly afterward Belinda Stewart, the Department of Corrections spokeswoman attending the death, picked up a phone receiver on the wall, listened briefly and then turned to the witnesses.
"Cal Brown was pronounced dead at 12:56 a.m." she said.
At a press conference afterward, the family members said they were grateful that with his death, they could now put Brown behind them.
"Closure has finally come to the family," John Washa said. "(Brown) is a very bad person. He did a very bad thing to us which he didn't need to do. I feel better now ... Why he did what he did to my daughter Holly, I don't think we'll ever understand."
In his comments, Satterberg said the Department of Corrections staff members conducted the execution "very professionally. It was flawless. Cal Brown died a death that was quick and painless."
Satterberg said Brown, who had been on death row for 17 years, was treated fairly by the justice system, but that the length of time it took to finally administer the penalty was too long.
"If we're going to have a death penalty, we're going to have to be prepared to carry it out," he said.
Last meals -- On his last day, Brown had biscuits and gravy for breakfast, nothing for lunch and for dinner "combination pizza," apple pie and coffee and milk.
Last outfit -- Brown was executed while wearing a prison-issue orange jumpsuit.
Last items -- When he was moved to the holding cell above the execution chamber, Brown took "15 personal photos, one writing pad, five envelopes, one pen, one book, one address book and two pairs of reading glasses."
Last visitors -- Brown had no visitors Thursday. Earlier in the day he spoke with his attorneys by telephone.
(Source: Belinda Stewart, Department of Corrections)