Saturday, 23 March, 2019

Gov. Gavin Newsom Halts Executions In California, Calls Death Penalty 'A Failure'

Execution chamber at San Quentin Prison Execution chamber at the San Quentin prison
Leonard Rios | 14 March, 2019, 07:14

The Associated Press reports that Newsom will argue today that the system is broken, and that innocent people have sometimes been wrongly convicted and put to death.

Ultimately, Newsom decided the moratorium was in the best interest of the state, because he believes the death penalty "is inconsistent with our bedrock values and strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Californian".

Michele Hanisee, president of the LA ADDA, issued a statement Tuesday after Newsom's plan was announced, saying that he "is usurping the express will of California voters and substituting his personal preferences via this hasty and ill-considered moratorium on the death penalty".

California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom speaks after being elected governor of the state during an election night party in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 6, 2018.

Newsom's order is in effect as long as he is governor.

Ellen Kreitzberg, a death penalty expert and opponent at Santa Clara University law school in California, welcomed Newsom's move.

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

California has the most death row inmates in the USA, according to Politico.

The California moratorium will become the fourth in the nation, following similar ones issued under Democratic governors in Oregon, Colorado, and California.

California Governor Gavin Newsom
California Governor Gavin Newsom

"I told him these are people who kill babies and women and cops", Klaas said.

As recently as 2016, a measure to abolish the death penalty failed, and another, aimed at speeding up executions, passed.

"I met someone yesterday who said this is about eradicating evil, and you have a responsibility to eradicate evil by executing those on death row", he said.

Since becoming governor, Newsom has been meeting with the families of victims, as well as law enforcement officials, while consulting with his legal team about what action to take. He said having a governor campaign against the death penalty could make the difference in convincing voters to repeal it.

He may have put a nail in that coffin with his decision to sign an executive order on Wednesday that would put a halt to the death penalty while he's governor.

The move will close the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison and grant reprieves to 737 death row inmates.

Newsom noted that roughly 60 percent of death row inmates are people of color and many executed over the past year were mentally impaired. A Pew Research Center poll completed previous year found that a small majority of Americans support the death penalty but that those views were split by party. That's more than four times the amount of the second-deadliest state, Virginia, where there were 113 executions, or the third-deadliest, which is Oklahoma with 112 executions.

The last time an inmate was executed in California was in 2006 under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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

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