A US federal judge has cleared the way for California's first execution in nearly five years, citing the state's efforts to revise its lethal injection procedure and a Supreme Court ruling making it more difficult for condemned inmates to delay their death.
Barring successful appeals to other courts, convicted murderer and rapist Albert Greenwood Brown is scheduled to die on Wednesday, after US District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel refused to block the execution.
Brown failed to show "a demonstrated risk of severe pain" as required by a 2008 US Supreme Court ruling upholding Kentucky's lethal injection process, the judge said in his ruling.
Brown's execution would be the first in the state since Mr Fogel placed a de facto moratorium on capital punishment in California and ordered prison officials to overhaul the process in 2006.
The attorney general's office told Mr Fogel this week the state has complied with his order by building a new death chamber at San Quentin State Prison, revising its training regimen and adopting new lethal injection regulations.
Mr Fogel gave Brown the option of choosing a one-drug injection of sodium thiopental instead of a three-drug cocktail used by the state to put condemned inmates to death.
The judge said it appeared the one-drug lethal injection was less risky than the three-drug cocktail when it came to causing pain.
"The fact that nine single-drug executions have been carried out in Ohio and Washington without any apparent difficulty is undisputed and significant," Mr Fogel wrote.
Brown can still pursue at least two legal avenues to stop his execution.