Published: Thu, March 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Stella Potter

California to Halt the Death Penalty Reprieving 737 Death Row Inmates

California to Halt the Death Penalty Reprieving 737 Death Row Inmates

The order will grant reprieve to 737 death row inmates, a quarter of all prisoners awaiting execution in the United States. This comes on the heels of Californians actually voting to bolster the speed with which the state can execute an inmate. "And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual".

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, called Newsom's actions "an abuse of power". Voter efforts failed in 2012 and 2016, and voters approved a measure a year ago to speed up the time from conviction to execution.

Newsom, whose state government is clashing with Trump over environmental regulations, Trump's promised border wall and plans for a bullet train, added he was still committed to working with the Trump White House on disaster preparedness. "I hope we can turn toward better solutions that focus more on healing victims of trauma and prioritizing fairness and justice".

In 2014, support for the death penalty among Democrats dropped under 50 percent in Pew's polling, the first year in which that happened.

California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom speaks after being elected governor of the state during an election night party in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 6, 2018.

"There's a reason why, today, three out of four countries around the world have either abolished the death penalty or no longer use it", Newsom said.

Newsom was expected to hold a press conference on Wednesday outlining the rationale for his decision.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that voters don't support Newsom's decision on behalf of the "737 stone cold killers".

The governor is meant to sign the new order later on Wednesday. "You've got to remember, you've got families that are reeling from the brutal nature in which they lost their loved ones".


Newsom said the death penalty has been meted out unevenly, often discriminating against the poor and people of color.

GOP Assemblyman Tom Lackey said Republicans were looking for a way to reverse Newsom's action but hadn't yet figured out how.

"It's not an abstract question any longer", he said.

California hasn't executed anyone since 2006, when Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor. But executions for 25 inmates who have exhausted their appeals could have resumed soon if those challenges were resolved, Newsom said.

Other governors also have enacted moratoriums.

This moratorium will be in place for the duration of Newsom's time in office, the governor's office said. "If I had carried out an execution on someone we later found out was innocent, I don't know if I would have been able to live with that at all".

Newsom's executive order deviates from the expressed will of California voters, who rejected two statewide ballot measures in the last six years that called for a repeal of the death penalty. It doesn't free anyone on death row.

Newsom has always been a vocal critic of capital punishment. "I think we hear what we want to hear", he continued.

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