Published: Wed, March 13, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Gov. Gavin Newsom Suspends Death Penalty In California

Gov. Gavin Newsom Suspends Death Penalty In California

Newsom's office said he can act unilaterally because he's enacting a moratorium, not changing anyone's sentence.

In a bold stroke meant to keep California at the cutting edge of criminal justice, Gov. Gavin Newsom will sign an executive order Wednesday placing a moratorium on the death penalty in the Golden 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 said in prepared remarks on Wednesday.

Since 1973, a total of 164 prisoners nationally - including five from California - have been freed after they were wrongfully convicted, according to "The Innocence List" maintained by The Death Penalty Information Center.

The executive order grants a reprieve to 737 inmates on the country's largest death row and halts the use of the death penalty in the state, according to the governor's office. It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent.

In referring to the president's attempts to spend billions of dollars on building the border wall, Newsom said it's a distraction to steer away from more substantive solutions to the immigration problem. "It is certain that as long as there is the death penalty there is the risk of executing innocent people".

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"I've done what I want to do", Brown said shortly before leaving office, defending his decision not to endorse death penalty repeal efforts in 2012 and 2016.

This Sept. 21, 2010, file photo shows the interior of the lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign a moratorium on the death penalty.

A $853,000 upgrade of the execution chamber at San Quentin was completed in 2010, but it has never been used. The order will reprieve all individuals sentenced to death in California. No executions have been carried out since. A new execution protocol is under review, but Newsom's order will withdraw it. That is powerfully demonstrated by their approval of Proposition 66 in 2016 to ensure the death penalty is implemented, and their rejection of measures to end the death penalty in 2016 and 2006, said Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, in a statement late Tuesday. And though voters in 2016 narrowly approved a ballot measure to speed up the punishment, no condemned inmate faced imminent execution. The California Supreme Court rejected part of that measure, while keeping most of it intact. Inmates on death row are more likely to die of old age than by lethal injection in the state.

But Newsom's action will anger death penalty proponents. What might have seemed avant-garde decades ago, isn't anymore: The governors of Colorado, Oregon and Washington state have issued moratoriums on executions in recent years.

California is one of 31 states with capital punishment. Jerry Brown, another Democrat, agreed to some limited retesting of evidence in the case a year ago.

California hasn't executed an inmate since 2006, when Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was in office.

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