Gov. Gavin Newsom is putting a moratorium on the death penalty in California, sparing the lives of more than 700 death-row inmates.
Newsom plans to sign an executive order Wednesday morning granting reprieves to all 737 Californians awaiting executions – a quarter of the country’s death row inmates.
His action comes three years after California voters rejected an initiative to end the death penalty, instead passing a measure to speed up executions.
Newsom says the death penalty system has discriminated against mentally ill defendants and people of color. It has not made the state safer and has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars, according to prepared remarks Newsom plans to deliver Wednesday morning when he signs the order.
“Our death penalty system has been – by any measure – a failure,” Newsom plans to say. “The intentional killing of another person is wrong. And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual.”
California has not executed anyone in more than a decade because of legal challenges to the state’s execution protocol. 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 worried that it could happen soon.
Newsom has been a longtime opponent of the death penalty. While campaigning for a measure to repeal the death penalty in 2016, he told The Modesto Bee editorial board he would “be accountable to the will of the voters,” if he were elected governor.
“I would not get my personal opinions in the way of the public’s right to make a determination of where they want to take us” on the death penalty, he said.
The moratorium will be in place for the duration of Newsom’s time in office, the governor’s office said. After that, a future governor could decide to resume executions.
California is one of 31 states with capital punishment. In recent years, other states have abolished the death penalty and several other governors have placed moratoriums on executions. The California Constitution gives the governor power to grant reprieves to inmates, providing he reports his reasoning to the Legislature.
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Source: Sacramento Bee