California governor to block more than 700 executions with executive order

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

Enlarge Image California Gov. Gavin Newsom AP

Newsom plans to sign an executive order Wednesday morning granting reprieves to all 737 Californians awaiting executions - a quarter of the country's death row inmates.

California has executed 13 people since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Age and natural causes seem to have been a more effective death penalty in California: 79 death row habitants have died of natural causes since 1978, another 26 killed themselves.

Newsom said the death penalty was not a deterrent, wasted taxpayer dollars and was flawed because it is "irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error". "The intentional killing of another person is wrong".

Newsom cited discrimination against minorities and the poor and his Catholic background as the reasons why he "will not oversee the execution of any individual". "That is powerfully demonstrated by their approval of Proposition 66 in 2016 to ensure the death penalty is implemented, and their rejection of measures to end the death penalty in 2016 and 2006".

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Another key point of Newsom's argument is the wrongful conviction and subsequent overturning of inmates on death row.

No death row inmates will be released, an administration source told Reuters.

The California governor is expected to issue a moratorium on the executions of the 737 men and women residing on death row, the nation's largest. California voters even voted to fast-track death sentence appeals. A Pew Research Center poll completed previous year found that a small majority of Americans support the death penalty but that those views were split by party.

President Donald Trump, who has suggested expanding the death penalty so drug dealers are subject to it, lamented that California's "stone cold killers" will not be executed under Newsom's order. Federal courts ordered a halt to executions until the California department of corrections and rehabilitation (CDCR) could ensure its lethal injection protocol was administered without risk of exposing inmates to excessive pain. Newsom said he anxious that the executions of more than 20 inmates who have exhausted their appeals would be resumed.

Newsom called the death penalty "a failure" that "has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can't afford expensive legal representation".

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Death penalty opponents hope California's suspension of executions will inspire other states to follow suit.

"You can't make this up, Anderson", the governor said.

In 1990, Dianne Feinstein ran for governor as a pro-death penalty Democrat, views that were booed at the state Democratic Convention that year.

"The disparities are very real and raw to me now especially as I spend every week working on the issues of paroles and commutations", he said. He has not committed one way or the other about whether he will push another death penalty repeal initiative in 2020.

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