by Ralph Nichols
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Friday morning (Sept. 10th), just after midnight, Cal Coburn Brown was executed via lethal injection for the rape, torture and murder of Holly Washa, 22, of Burien. His was the first execution in Washington state since August, 2001.
Also, KUOW’s Patricia Murphy served as a witness to the execution. Listen to her account here.]
Justice delayed is justice denied.
– William Gladstone, four times British Prime Minister (1868-1894)
For almost 20 heartbreaking years, the family and friends of Holly Washa have waited for – and have been denied – justice.
And for almost 20 undeserved years, the man who kidnapped, raped, tortured and killed her – snuffing out a young and promising life – has been allowed to escape justice.
Now, however, it appears that justice will be exacted from Cal Coburn Brown, who confessed to these crimes following his arrest.
He was subsequently convicted in King County Superior Court of first-degree aggravated murder, first-degree rape, and first-degree robbery.
Washa, who was just 22 at the time of her violent death, which was brutal beyond belief, lived in Burien. She was working at TCI Cablevision and Hickory Farms in Southcenter Mall while pursuing her dream of becoming a flight attendant.
Brown is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection just after midnight Friday, Sept. 10, at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. As the clock ticks down the minutes, his options for dodging the death sentence yet again are running out.
The state Supreme Court denied an appeal for clemency on Sept. 8, and later in the day Gov. Chris Gregoire also rejected Brown’s bid for clemency.
“The torture, rape and murder of Holly Washa were horrible acts of brutality,” Gregoire said in the news release.
“My sympathies and prayers are with Holly Washa’s family, who has suffered immeasurably from Cal Brown’s actions. No one can do anything to take away or lessen their pain. As a mother, my heart goes out to them for their tragic loss. I pray for Holly Washa. I will also pray for Cal Brown.”
But emergency appeals for a stay still are pending before the U.S. Supreme Court and the state Supreme Court.
The federal appeal alleges that the U.S. District Court and the 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals improperly denied Brown’s motion for a stay to give him time for a legal challenge of Washington’s new lethal-injection method for capital punishment.
Challenged at the state level is a recent ruling by a King County Superior Court judge that what his attorneys claim is a “mood disorder” is not severe enough to lift the death sentence.
Despite this last-minute legal maneuvering, Washa’s family and friends are planning to come to Walla Walla from Nebraska – again – for Brown’s scheduled execution.
They came here earlier, in March 2009, to witness his death and get whatever closure is possible. But just hours before his then-scheduled execution – as his last meal was being prepared – the state Supreme Court stayed Brown’s execution.
It had been appealed on the grounds that – even for the crimes he committed against Washa and the pain he inflicted on her – Washington’s method of lethal injection constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”
And only during a hearing before the state Clemency and Pardons Board on March 12, 2009, just hours before he was to die and shortly before the stay, did Brown finally apologize for killing her.H
Understandably, that means nothing to Kim Bowen, who was both Washa’s friend and her supervisor at TCI Cablevision.
“It’s well beyond time that the sentence be carried out,” Bowen told KING 5 TV news on Sept. 8. “It serves no purpose to grant him another stay [of execution]. There’s no reason to do it. He needs to die.
“It’s not closure, but you’re … moving on to the next phase of grieving, and that next phase is Cal Brown’s gone, and now we don’t have to think about him anymore, and we can just rejoice in who Holly was and hold onto her as people who love her.”
Bowen, who will be in Walla Walla to witness his execution, also told KOMO TV that “I would just call him a coward and spit on him and walk away. I hate him.”
Washa “was the sweetest person,” Don Briscoe, her boyfriend when she lived in Vancouver, told the Seattle Times in 1991. “She cared about people so much.”
She moved from Ogallala, Neb., in 1988 to enroll in a three-month course at the International Air Academy in Vancouver. After it ended, she came to Burien and worked as a TCI dispatcher.
Her family has declined to comment until after Brown is put to death.
But Holly’s sister, Becky Washa, told The Seattle Times during the 2009 clemency hearing, that the family considered Brown’s execution “an opportunity for this to be brought to a conclusion. We don’t have to ever be concerned that he could escape from prison or that any other person would have to go through what my sister went through.”
Here are two videos that show reaction by Washa’s family to the 2009 stay of execution:
Here’s a recent video interview of Washa’s friend Kim Bowen, courtesy KING5.com:
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg described the family as “very close knit. They really treat Holly as though she’s still there with them as a member of the family. They feel there is an empty hole in their family. They want to be at the execution not because they want to see him die but they want to be there for Holly.”
In 1991, as Washa was driving out of the parking lot where she worked, Brown pointed toward her tires as though something was wrong. When she stopped and opened the door to look at them, Brown abducted her at knife point, stole her money, then took her back to his room at a local motel.
During the next two days, he repeatedly raped and tortured Washa while she was bound and gagged in the motel room. When he left to fly to California, Brown handcuffed Washa, forced her into the trunk of his car, and after parking at Sea-Tac International Airport, cut her throat and stabbed her in the chest so she would not be a witness to his crimes.
According to court documents, “Brown was arrested a few days later in California in the midst of raping, torturing, and attempting to kill another woman. Brown [then] confessed in detail to the murder of Washa.”
He was charged with and convicted of aggravated first-degree murder, for which Washington law provides only two possible sentences: death, or life imprisonment without parole.
Ellen Griffin Dunne, the founder of Justice for Homicide Victims, has written:
“The scales of justice have gradually become weighted in the favor of the accused, leaving the victim with no rights or representation. We must re-establish the idea that homicide is the ultimate offence against humanity. Its punishment must reflect the gravity of the crime.”
Anyone who really wants a more detailed, albeit mercifully brief, description of Brown’s brutal crimes against Washa can go to the following link to an appeal that was filed in his behalf, and then scroll down to page 13 – The Murder of Holly Washa (PDF file).]]>