California Governor Newsom Signs Executive Moratorium

Blanche Robertson
March 14, 2019

Jones argued that because the period of delay is so long and that many death row inmates face the possibility of never getting executed, it's "arbitrary" that only a few prisoners are ever put to death.

The California governor does not have the power to abolish the state's 1978 death penalty legislation permanently.

California has the biggest death row population in the country, with one in four USA inmates on death row incarcerated in the state. "I visited prisons, met with formerly incarcerated people, and helped with cases of individual injustice - including two death penalty cases".

"I was grateful to him", the governor said. But only California voters can repeal the death penalty, something they rejected narrowly three years ago. It will also contribute to a broader effort by death penalty abolitionists to oppose capital punishment through the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. Governor Newsom lost, too.

To crime victims, Newsom said, "we owe you, and we need to do more and do better". Human Rights Watch believes these rights can not be reconciled with the death penalty, a form of punishment unique in its cruelty and finality.

But Alison Parker, U.S. managing director at Human Rights Watch, praised Newsom's "great courage and leadership in ending the cruel, costly, and unfair practice of executing prisoners", calling for other states to follow California's lead.

Flanked by lawmakers, Gov. Gavin Newsom discusses his decision to place a moratorium on the death penalty during a news conference, March 13, 2019, in Sacramento, Calif.

I'm deeply grateful that California Governor @GavinNewsom is halting executions.

"Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!" he tweeted Wednesday.

"A 2,000-mile wall is a monument to stupidity, not just vanity, to stupidity", Newsom said. "California will not. They won't do their job, we'll do their job", he said.

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"Our death penalty system has been - by any measure - a failure", Newsom said in a written statement. But on Wednesday he said that abstract idea faded as he was personally faced with the possibility of signing death warrants.

California has not executed anyone in more than a decade because of legal challenges to the state's execution protocol.

Flanked by Democratic party leaders, Newsom said he made a decision to take the move because of steps by the state towards resuming executions.

Nonetheless, Newsom's action is the latest indication of how California politics have changed around capital punishment. Jerry Brown both "abandoned the state's defense of Proposition 8", which barred same-sex marriage in California.

"The governor of Texas isn't issuing a moratorium anytime soon", he said. A future governor would have the power to change their fate.

Newsom's declaration also included an order to close the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison and the withdrawal of a new execution protocol.

In California's constitution, however, the authority for clemency is more limited.

In 1998, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gray Davis also ran as a supporter of capital punishment, easily crushing Republican Attorney General Dan Lungren in the general election.

"I think we hear what we want to hear", he said.

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