California Governor Declares Death Penalty Moratorium


(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order today to impose a moratorium on the death penalty in California, calling it discriminatory and unjust.

“I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people,” Governor Newsom said in a statement. “The death penalty is inconsistent with our bedrock values and strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Californian.”

The order grants reprieves that will prevent the execution of all 737 people on California’s death row, which is the largest in the country, the Los Angeles Times reports. Governor Newsom said he will grant reprieves to anyone sentenced to death while he is in office.

“The intentional killing of another person is wrong,” he said. “And, as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual.”

California has not executed anyone since 2006 due to its inability to develop an execution protocol that meets constitutional requirements. The executive order halts the state’s efforts to devise such a protocol and closes the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison.

The moratorium continues a national trend against the death penalty. Since 2007, the death penalty has been abolished in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Illinois, and Connecticut. In 2018, both executions and new death sentences remained near generational lows, and Washington became the 20th state to abolish capital punishment.

Governor Newsom joins the governors of Colorado, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, who imposed moratoriums on executions in their states in 2013, 2011, and 2015, respectively.

“Our death penalty system has been — by any measure — a failure,” Governor Newsom says in prepared remarks he is expected to deliver at a news conference this morning. “It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, Black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation. It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars.”