SAN QUENTIN, Calif. – Prison officials executed a three-time murderer early Wednesday, making him the 11th inmate put to death in California since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977.
Donald Beardslee (search), 61, was executed by injection for killing two women in 1981 while on parole for a third slaying. Officials said Beardslee did not make a final statement.
The execution came only hours after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) rejected a clemency petition seeking to commute the death sentence to life without parole, and the Supreme Court (search) rejected two last-minute appeals.
Beardslee's lawyers claimed he suffered from brain maladies when he killed Stacey Benjamin, 19, and Patty Geddling, 23, to avenge a soured $185 drug deal.
His appeals before the Supreme Court included claims that lethal injection constitutes cruel-and-unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment (search), and that jurors were unfairly influenced when they rendered the death verdict.
The court denied his appeals without comment.
The governor also 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.
"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 a statement. "I do not believe the evidence presented warrants the exercise of clemency in this case."
Prosecutors brushed aside defense arguments that Beardslee was an unwitting dupe during the killings, claiming he 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 dismissed the contention that Beardslee should be spared because he was 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. After being released, he killed Benjamin and Geddling.
Beardslee chose not to have any of his family members witness the execution and hadn't had a family visit for at least the past month. He turned down a last meal, only drinking some grapefruit juice.
Outside the prison compound, about 25 miles north of San Francisco, some 300 protesters stood vigil. Protesters carried candles and signs that said "Don't Kill In Our Name" and "Stop State Murder." One death penalty supporter carried a sign reading "Bye Bye Beardslee."
Activists opposed to capital punishment also staged a small demonstration outside the U.S. Embassy in Austria to protest Austrian-born Schwarzenegger's decision.
About a half-dozen protesters stood in the snow holding signs that read, "Schwarzenegger Terminates in Real Life," "Death PenaltyState Murder" and "No to the Death Penalty."
The previous execution in California was that of Stephen Anderson (search) in 2002, who murdered an elderly woman in 1980. More than 600 men are on the state's death row.
No California governor has granted clemency to a condemned murderer since then-Gov. Ronald Reagan spared the life of a severely brain-damaged killer in 1967.