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Court ruling may stall California execution

By the CNN Wire Staff
Brown was sentenced to death in 1982 for the rape and murder of Susan Jordan, who was abducted while walking to school.
Brown was sentenced to death in 1982 for the rape and murder of Susan Jordan, who was abducted while walking to school.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • If it proceeds, the execution will be the first since a lethal injection review
  • Brown is asked to choose between single injection or three-drug cocktail
  • He was sentenced to death in 1982 for the rape and murder of 15-year-old Susan Jordan

(CNN) -- A federal appeals court has ordered a judge to rethink a ruling that would have led to the execution of a California inmate.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, released late Monday night, says a U.S. District Court must now set a hearing to determine the fate of death row inmate Albert Greenwood Brown.

The ruling may delay Brown's execution that was scheduled for Thursday. Brown was sentenced to death in 1982 for raping and murdering a high school student.

His execution would be the first in California since 2006, when legal challenges arose and prompted the state to revise its lethal injection procedure.

The federal appeals court said a U.S. District Court made a mistake when it recently said that Brown should choose between a one-drug or a three-drug option for his lethal injection.

"The district court's decision to provide Brown the choice of a one drug option is not consistent with California state law and procedures," the court ruling said. "California law does not provide the condemned a choice between a three-drug protocol or a one-drug option."

Video: California inmate scheduled to die
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The ruling was not meant to decide Brown's guilt or innocence, but only was considering the "narrow issue of the manner and timing of Brown's execution in a fashion that comports with the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment," the federal appeals court said.

The ruling could also delay Brown's execution for some time because California is running low on one of the drugs that is used in lethal injection.

The state's supply of sodium thiopental is set to expire on October 1 and will not be avaliable until early next year, the appeals court said.

Brown was sentenced to death in 1982 for the rape and murder of Susan Jordan, who was walking to Arlington High School in Riverside when Brown pulled her into an orange grove, according to court documents.

He raped and strangled her with her own shoelace and took her school identification cards and books.

Later that evening, Brown looked up her family in the phone book and called their home, the documents state.

"Hello, Mrs. Jordan, Susie isn't home from school yet, is she?" court documents quoted him as saying. "You will never see your daughter again. You can find her body on the corner of Victoria and Gibson."

He also placed a call to police directing them to her body. During the investigation, three witnesses identified Brown as being near the scene of the crime. Police also found Susan's school books and newspaper articles about her death in Brown's home, and clothing with semen stains in Brown's work locker.

During the penalty phase of Brown's trial, his lawyer claimed his client was remorseful and presented psychiatric evidence suggesting that Brown had emotional problems, including sexual maladjustment and dysfunction.

The jury deliberated for three hours before returning a death verdict, according to an opinion issued September 19 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

California's last execution was on January 17, 2006, when Clarence Ray Allen was put to death for three counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances. From behind bars, he had helped orchestrate a deadly armed robbery at a convenience store.

CNN's Bill Mears, Augie Martin and Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.