Two big pieces of bad news for condemned killer Cal Coburn Brown.

Wednesday Governor Chris Gregoire and the Washington State Supreme Court denied his request for clemency. The legal maneuvering isn't over yet but right now Brown is scheduled to die just after midnight Friday.

Meantime the death penalty itself continues stir controversy. Like gun control and abortion, capital punishment, the death penalty, is one of the most divisive issues in our society.

Few of us are on the fence.

One supporter says, "I support it because it's finality criminals need to understand, that no means no and yes means yes."

An opponent says, "I oppose it because I think it's cruel and unfair."

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg says, "I see the death penalty in the State of Washington really as punishment. That's the purpose of the death penalty. Somebody has so crossed the line of civil behavior, has caused such damage without any possible explanation, without any mitigation and those people should face the ultimate penalty."

Satterberg has 25 years on the job.

In that time, he's handled 25 to 30 cases that qualified for capital punishment.

He only sought the death penalty in about one in four.


Satterberg says, "It really is a balancing of the terrible crime versus are there any mitigating circumstances. If you can't find any mitigating circumstances then the law says you should allow a jury to have that as an option."

Mitigating circumstances would include severe mental disabilities and the age of the defendant.

In Washington minors cannot be sentenced to death.

Satterberg says, "I think when you look at the cases that we have asked for the death penalty on they are cases that have really rocked the community. They have been so horrible. The magnitude of the offenses have been so great. I think the jury needs to have that option in the right case."

Glen Anderson is a member of the Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation. It's an organization against capital punishment that works nationwide to promote alternatives to the death penalty.

Anderson says, "We oppose it and we have for decades. Why should we kill people who kill people to show killing people is wrong? We've got to stop the cycle of violence."

Anderson says the death penalty doesn't deter violent crime -- is opposed by most religions and is prone to mistakes.

Anderson goes on to say, "There's always a high risk of condemning an innocent person to death and in fact there have been more than 130 people released from death row because of wrongful conviction."

Prosecutor Satterberg says, "When you have some uncertainty about the actual guilt of somebody on death row then I am all for stepping back and using new technology and DNA testing and other let's make sure that the person that we have is the right person. Nobody wants to condemn an innocent man. That's a nightmare. Across the board in the state of Washington we don't have that many people on death row and the people who are there are all guilty."

Anderson counters, "All of the 130 plus people who have been released from death row and released from prison because they were innocent, all of those people were convicted beyond a reasonable doubt so the judge was absolutely certain, the jury was absolutely certain and yet we have 130+ people who were actually innocent."

Since 1904, the state of Washington has executed 77 people, all men. 65 were White, 7 were Black, 2 were Asian, 2 Hispanic and there was one Eskimo. The vast majority of which were hanged and while lethal injection is the primary method now, the gallows are still available if the condemned so chooses.