California to Halt the Death Penalty Reprieving 737 Death Row Inmates

Posted March 14, 2019

California governor Gavin Newsom will sign an executive order placing a moratorium on the state's use of the death penalty on Wednesday morning, according to the governor's office.

An armed California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officer is seen reflected in the window of a cell at San Quentin State Prison's death row adjustment center on August 15, 2016 in San Quentin, California.

In the USA, the death penalty is inevitably plagued with arbitrariness, racial disparities, and error; 164 people, including four from California, have been released from death row since 1973 after being later found innocent.

"Our death penalty system has been - by any measure - a failure", Newsom explained. "The intentional killing of another person is wrong".

And although voters in 2016 narrowly approved a ballot measure to speed up the punishment, no condemned inmate faced imminent execution. Voters that year also favored fast-tracking the appeals process, speeding up convicted killers' time on death row, through approving Proposition 66.

The governor signed an executive order that halts executions for the 737 inmates now on death row, closes the never-before-used execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison and withdraws the state's lethal injections protocol.

Newsom's executive order completely goes against voters' wishes throughout the state. It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can't afford expensive legal representation. In recent years, other states have abolished the death penalty and several other governors have placed moratoriums on executions. Newsom is expected to say on Wednesday that he believes capital punishment to be costly and burdensome, and unevenly meted out to minorities and offenders with disabilities, the administration source said.

The governor's decision brings California in line with Colorado, Oregon, and Pennsylvania - all of which have governor-issued moratoria - and adds momentum to a national movement working to end capital punishment.

His administration's regulations are stalled by challenges in both state and federal court, but those lawsuits may be halted now that Newsom is officially withdrawing the regulations. Newsom said he anxious that the executions of more than 20 inmates who have exhausted their appeals would be resumed.

Newsom may have a point to at least looking into the state's approach to the death penalty.

"As conservatives, we applaud Governor Newsom's decision because the death penalty violates our beliefs in limited government, fiscal responsibility, and the value of life".

At that time, Newsom said he understood that the issue "raises deeply felt passions on all sides" but he believed that Americans ultimately would look back on the death penalty "as an archaic mistake".