California governor suspends death penalty

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

Governor Newsom supported both initiatives.

"There is a lot of literature and studies out there that show that the death penalty is a deeply broken system for a lot of different reasons", the American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Shilpi Agarwal said. "The intentional killing of another person is wrong".

About a quarter of America's death-row prisoners are in California, the country's most populous state. During that same time, 79 death row inmates have died of natural causes and 26 have died by suicide, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

However, in 2012 and again in 2016, Californian voters rejected ballot measures aimed at abolishing the death penalty.

"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.

His office insisted he has the authority to impose the moratorium because he is not changing or commuting death sentences. 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. Four years later San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, an ardent opponent of capital punishment, was narrowly elected as state attorney general. Only 13 people have been executed... The California Constitution gives the governor power to grant reprieves to inmates, providing he reports his reasoning to the Legislature.

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Newsom, a Democrat, told reporters earlier this month that he "never believed in the death penalty from a moral perspective", also citing ethical and economic concerns.

"The voters of the State of California support the death penalty".

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys, which represents about 1,000 deputy district attorneys in Los Angeles County, called the decision "hasty and ill-considered".

"It's not supposed to be a weapon for blocking the enforcement of the law that the people have passed just because the governor disagrees with it", Scheidegger said.

The order will also immediately close the execution chamber at San Quentin and states that the directive "does not provide for the release of any individual from prison or otherwise alter any current conviction or sentence", according to Newsom's office. Those on death row will remain in prison under the order. His administration argues that capital punishment has been a failure, pointing at pervasive inequality running through the USA criminal justice system, the significant number of innocent people who have been wrongfully convicted, and evidence that the costly system doesn't increase safety.

Newsom's aides said it has not yet been decided what will become of the execution chamber, or whether corrections officials have been told to top preparing for executions, for instance by running drills. "So no, I can't admit, quote, unquote, to what I said privately because that's not what I said". "The disparities are really real and raw to me now, as I spend every week working on the issues of paroles and commutations and, substantively I see those disparities".

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