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California Gov. Gavin Newsom Ends Death Penalty In State, Removes 700 From Death Row

By  Ashe Schow

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will announce Wednesday that he plans to sign an executive order placing a moratorium on state executions.

“The intentional killing of another person is wrong. And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual,” Newsome will say, according to prepared remarks published by Buzzfeed.

The Golden State hasn’t executed any prisoners since 2006, the outlet reported, but it does have 737 inmates sitting on death row. The reason for the lapse in executions is due to legal challenges against the state’s method of lethal injection, the Los Angeles Times reported.

While Newsom and many advocates favor ending the death penalty, the California people voted in 2016 to keep it for those convicted for first-degree murder. Back then, the people voted on Proposition 62, which would have reduced the sentences for those convicts from the death penalty to life in prison without parole.

“California voters rejected the measure by a margin of 53% to 47%. Voters narrowly approved Proposition 66, a measure on the same ballot to streamline death penalty appeals,” the Times reported.

This could create a challenge for Newsom, since his executive order would be denying the will of the California people. He does, however, feel strongly on the issue, and has been working with his legal advisors on the issue since he was elected last year.

“Since his election, Newsom has sought counsel on the issue of capital punishment from religious leaders, state lawmakers and former governors from across the county, including his predecessor, [Gov. Jerry] Brown. He’s also talked with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the last California governor to preside over an execution in the state,” the Times reported.

Missing from that list appears to be the families of the victims of those on death row. Twenty-four people currently on California’s death row were convicted of murder and have exhausted all of their appeals, the Times reported.

Newsom plans to say that the death penalty is racist and classist.

“Our death penalty system has been — by any measure — a failure,” Newsom will say. “It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation.”

Newsom may feel strongly on this issue, but his decision certainly will appear to be a slap in the face to the victims and their families.

Newsom’s executive order, in addition to the moratorium, would “withdraw the state’s lethal injection protocol, and shut down the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison,” according to Buzzfeed. But, the outlet reported, the order “does not allow for the release of any inmates or change their sentences.”

Newsom may have a point to at least looking into the state’s approach to the death penalty. In 2014, a federal judge ruled that California’s death penalty system deployed “arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed.” He argued that the “systemic delay” in the process amounted to “life in prison, with the remote possibility of death.”

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