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State unveils new lethal-injection chamber at San Quentin State Prison

September 21, 2010 |  1:58 pm

As the clock ticks down to the first execution in California in nearly five years, state corrections officials Tuesday unveiled the newly built lethal-injection chamber at San Quentin State Prison where they intend to put rapist-murderer Albert Greenwood Brown to death in a week.

The hexagonal room built to comply with a federal court order contains only a gurney covered in pistachio-colored vinyl and a clock on the wall above where the condemned man is to be injected with three drugs fed through tubes from the adjacent Infusion Control Room.

“We are fully prepared to carry out an execution on Sept. 29,” San Quentin State Prison Warden Vincent Cullen said as he accompanied journalists on a tour of the death chamber built with inmate labor and $853,000 in taxpayer money since the last execution in January 2006.

The facility was built in response to concerns outlined by U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel when he halted the planned February 2006 execution of murderer Michael Morales. After hearing testimony about cramped conditions and poor lighting in the gas chamber that served as the execution venue for 11 previous lethal injections, Fogel ordered the deficiencies corrected, along with the state’s methods for putting the condemned to death. Two other men have been executed by gas since the death penalty was restored more than 30 years ago.

Fogel has yet to visit the chamber and assess whether it alleviates his concerns that some inmates may have been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in their executions. He is expected to make that inspection before efforts to execute Morales can resume, but no federal court edict stands in the way of Brown’s execution being carried out, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

A state appeals court lifted an injunction against executions on Monday, which Thornton said cleared the way for the state to carry out Brown’s death warrant in a week.

--Carol J. Williams reporting from San Quentin

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