California Gov. Gavin Newsom To Halt Executions

Arturo Kim
March 13, 2019

California governor Gavin Newsom will sign an executive order placing a moratorium on the state's use of the death penalty on Wednesday morning, according to the governor's office.

More than 700 inmates on America's largest death row are set for reprieve today as the governor of California announces a moratorium on capital punishment in the state.

"I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people", Newsom plans to say on Wednesday, in remarks seen by Reuters.

Still, Newsom argued opposing the death penalty is an ethical question.

His order also points to the 164 people who have been freed from death row after they were found to be wrongfully convicted.

California hasn't executed anyone since 2006, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor.

There are now 737 people on death row in California, making it the state with the largest death row population in the USA -one in four people sentenced to the death penalty in the country are sentenced in California.

California's voters have narrowly upheld the death penalty, most recently in 2016, when they voted to speed up the process. But executions for more than 20 inmates who have exhausted their appeals could have resumed if those challenges were cleared up, and Newsom has said he anxious that it could happen soon.

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys, which represents about 1,000 deputy district attorneys in Los Angeles County, called the decision "hasty and ill-considered".

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Mr Newsom is a Democrat who took office in January and a long-standing opponent of the death penalty, which was last carried out in California in 2006.

A quarter of all those on death row in the USA are in California, according to the governor's office, while 25 on California's death row have exhausted all of their appeals.

Newsom said the death penalty isn't a deterrent, wastes taxpayer dollars and is flawed because it is "irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error". Death row inmates are also much more likely to have a mental illness, brain damage or brain injury, or to be intellectually disabled. His administration's regulations are stalled by challenges in both state and federal court, though those lawsuits may be halted now that Newsom is officially withdrawing the regulations.

"The disparities are very real and raw to me now especially as I spend every week working on the issues of paroles and commutations", he said.

California is one of 31 states with capital punishment.

The governor told Cooper he called Trump privately to thank him for visiting Butte County in the aftermath of last year's deadly wildfires, the cause of which was its own source of discord between the two men.

The lethal injection chamber at San Quentin State Prison, photographed in 2010. Another 26 committed suicide.

Eighteen other states and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty.

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