California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed an executive order to suspend the death penalty in the state, sparing the lives of 737 inmates.
“The intentional killing of another person is wrong,” Newsom said in a statement, and, as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual.”
According to reports, Newsom plans to shut down the death chamber at San Quentin State Prison, which performed its last execution in 2006. The governor will also temporarily prohibit California’s revamped lethal injection procedures, which will end the decade long struggle prison officials experienced during botched procedures.
“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,” Newsom continued. “The death penalty is inconsistent with our bedrock values and strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Californian.”
Newsom doesn’t have the legal power to change the state’s death penalty law, which was voted in 1978. The sweeping political move, however, has garnered criticism. The president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys Michele Hanisee said the decision has disregarded the desire of California residents.
“The voters of the state of California support the death penalty,” she said. “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. Gov. Newsom … is usurping the expressed will of California voters.”
The governor’s decision to place a moratorium on the death penalty has been backed by research. California alone has spent $5 billion on trying, convicting, imprisoning and executing inmates, however, Newsom states the death penalty hasn’t proven it deters criminals from murdering civilians, and death rates haven’t decreased.
Newsom also discussed the racial disparities that affect the death penalty. “[The death penalty] discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation.”