Calif. Set to Execute First Inmate in 3 Years

California could see its first execution in nearly three years early Wednesday unless a last-minute appeal is granted or if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) grants him clemency.

Donald Beardslee (search), 61, is scheduled be put to death by injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at San Quentin State Prison (search) for the 1981 slayings of two women. More than two dozen public officials, members of the victims' families and members of the media are scheduled to witness the execution.

Beardslee's remaining legal challenges before the U.S. Supreme Court include claims that the lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment and that jurors were unfairly influenced when they rendered a death verdict.

It would be the first execution in California since January 2002 and only the 11th since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1977. More than 600 men are on the state's death row.

In his clemency petition, Beardslee's lawyers claim he suffers from brain maladies when he killed Stacey Benjamin, 19, and Patty Geddling, 23. The two were lured to his Redwood City apartment to avenge a soured $185 drug deal.

Schwarzenegger has not answered Beardslee's clemency petition. Decisions from the Supreme Court and Schwarzenegger could come any time.

A year ago, 2 1/2 months after he took office, Schwarzenegger denied clemency to Kevin Cooper, convicted in the hacking deaths of four people in 1983. Cooper later won a stay of execution from a federal appeals court.

At a hearing Friday on Beardslee's request, Former San Quentin Warden Daniel Vasquez called for clemency, saying Beardslee had been a model inmate during his 21 years on death row and contributed to the safety of guards and other prisoners.

"Donald Beardslee is the rare inmate," Vasquez said. "Killing him would be a shame."

But Tom Amundsen, victim Stacey Benjamin's brother, said, "Now it's time to say goodbye to Mr. Beardslee. That's what I want, that's what my family wants."

Prosecutors have said that Beardslee was not an unwitting dupe when he committed the murders, as his lawyers say.

The last execution in California came on Jan. 29, 2002, when Stephen Wayne Anderson was put to death for shooting an 81-year-old woman in 1980.