Published: Wed, March 13, 2019
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Gov. Gavin Newsom will suspend death penalty in California

Gov. Gavin Newsom will suspend death penalty in California

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. "And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual", Newsom said in a prepared statement obtained by the Southern California News Group.

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.

With Newsom's move, California joins Colorado, Pennsylvania and OR as the fourth state to place a moratorium on the death penalty, though the length and reasoning for the moratoriums vary from state to state.

The tweet comes hours before Newsom, a Democrat, is expected to sign an executive order that would halt all executions at San Quentin State Prison, closing a new execution chamber.

There are now 737 people on death row in California, making it the state with the largest death row population in the US -one in four people sentenced to the death penalty in the country are sentenced in California. No death row inmates will be released, said the source, who declined to be identified.

"Symbolically it is very significant", Robert Dunham, the executive director of the not-for-profit Death Penalty Information Center, told the Guardian. After that, a future governor could decide to resume executions.

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Newsom explained that he spoke to the president "because I wanted to extend to him my appreciation" for his visit to California areas hit by wildfires and to "express the fact that the people in those communities were grateful to him".

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys blasted Newsom for "usurping" the will of the voters and "substituting his personal preferences".

His office noted there are racial disparities in who is sentenced to death, with more than six in 10 condemned inmates being minorities.

A US Government Accountability Office study published in 1990 found a vastly increased likelihood of a death sentence when the defendant was a person of color and the victim was white. His administration argues that capital punishment has been a failure, pointing at pervasive inequality running through the United States criminal justice system, the significant number of innocent people who have been wrongfully convicted, and evidence that the costly system doesn't increase safety.

Democratic Assemblyman Marc Levine of Greenbrae plans to seek the two-thirds vote the Legislature requires to put another repeal measure on the 2020 ballot.

California hasn't executed an inmate since 2006, when Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was in office. Four years later San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, an ardent opponent of capital punishment, was narrowly elected as state attorney general.

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