Clemency Denied for California Killer

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) and the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday turned back a plea for mercy for a man convicted of murdering two women in 1981 over a drug deal, clearing the way for California's first execution in three years.

Donald Beardslee (search), 61, is scheduled to die by injection Wednesday at one minute past midnight.

"The state and federal courts have affirmed his conviction and death sentence, and nothing in his petition or the record of his case convinces me that he did not understand the gravity of his actions or that these heinous murders were wrong," Schwarzenegger said in his written denial.

Beardslee's lawyers claimed he suffered from brain maladies when he killed Stacey Benjamin (search), 19, and Patty Geddling, 23, to avenge a soured $185 drug deal.

His two appeals before the Supreme Court (search) included claims that the lethal injection he is due to receive at San Quentin State Prison constitutes cruel-and-unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and that jurors were unfairly influenced when they rendered the death verdict.

The court denied his appeals without comment.

Defense lawyer Steven Lubliner said killing Beardslee was wrong.

"It accomplishes nothing," he said. "It demeans everyone."

Prosecutors have said Beardslee was not a passive, unwitting dupe when he committed the murders, as his lawyers claimed.

They claimed Beardslee helped with the murder plot and sent his roommate to get duct tape to bind the victims before they even arrived at his apartment.

"We are not dealing here with a man who is so generally affected by his impairment that he cannot tell the difference between right and wrong," Schwarzenegger said.

The governor also brushed aside a claim that Beardslee should be spared because he is the only one of the three people convicted in the murders who received a death sentence. The governor noted that Beardslee was the only one on parole at the time for another murder.

Beardslee, a machinist, served seven years in Missouri for murdering a woman whom he met at a St. Louis bar and killed the same evening.

The governor later rejected a request for a 120-day delay of the execution sought by defense lawyers who wanted the time to reopen the case before a federal court.

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. He was convicted of breaking into the woman's home, shooting her in the face and then fixing himself a dish of noodles in her kitchen.

California has had 10 executions since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1977. More than 600 men are on the state's death row.

A year ago, 21/2 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.