California Gov. Gavin Newsom is putting a moratorium on the death penalty in his state, sparing the lives of 737 death-row inmates. Newsom is signing an executive order Wednesday granting reprieves to everyone on death row, one-fourth if the nation’s condemned inmates, reports the Sacramento Bee. His action comes three years after California voters rejected an initiative to end the death penalty, instead passing a measure to speed executions. Newsom says the death penalty system has discriminated against mentally ill defendants and people of color. It has not made the state safer and has wasted billions of dollars, he contends. “The intentional killing of another person is wrong,” he says. “And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual.”
California has not executed anyone in more than a decade because of legal challenges to the execution protocol. Executions of more than 20 inmates who have exhausted their appeals could have resumed if those challenges were cleared up. The moratorium will be in place for the duration of Newsom’s time in office. A future governor could resume executions. California is one of 31 states with capital punishment. Several other governors have placed moratoriums on executions. Death-penalty supporters protested Newsom’s action. “The voters of the State of California support the death penalty. 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,” said Michele Hanisee of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. Preventing executions through a blanket action is an abuse of the governor’s power, contends Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. The governor’s clemency powers are designed to correct individual cases of injustice, he said.