California governor to halt executions, temporary reprieve for inmates

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

The move will give a temporary reprieve to the 737 death row inmates in the state while annulling California's lethal injection protocol and closing San Quentin State Prison's execution chamber, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"The intentional killing of another person is wrong, and as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual", he plans to say.

"Our death penalty system has been - by any measure - a failure", Newsom plans to say. His administration argues that capital punishment has been a failure, pointing at pervasive inequality running through the USA criminal justice system, the significant number of innocent people who have been wrongfully convicted, and evidence that the costly system doesn't increase safety. The last execution in California occurred January 17, 2006, when Clarence Ray Allen, 76, was put to death. "Irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error", he added, noting that the state had spent $5 billion since 1978 to keep inmates on death row. They also said five death-row inmates were eventually exonerated since 1973.

Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, issued a statement criticizing Newsom's intention to sign the executive order, saying it is not what Californians want.

"Governor Newsom, who supported the failed initiative to end the death penalty in 2006, is usurping the express will of California voters and substituting his personal preferences via this hasty and ill-considered moratorium on the death penalty".

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In his speech on Wednesday, the governor will highlight the racial disparities in sentencing - noting that 6 in 10 prisoners on California's death row are people of color - the cost of enforcing the death penalty and the number of innocent people who have been sentenced to death. It will not affect inmates' convictions or their imprisonment, other than eliminating their death sentences, the source said. His administration's regulations are stalled by challenges in both state and federal court, though those lawsuits may be halted now that Newsom is officially withdrawing them. Death row inmates are also much more likely to have a mental illness, brain damage or brain injury, or to be intellectually disabled.

"I've never believed in the death penalty from a moral perspective", he said.

But a separate proposition voted on in 2016 won support for its demand to speed up executions in California. Four years later San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, an ardent opponent of capital punishment, was narrowly elected as state attorney general.

Newsom's aides said it has not yet been decided what will become of the execution chamber, or whether corrections officials have been told to top preparing for executions, for instance by running drills.

Newsom's office said 25 condemned inmates have exhausted all of their appeals and could have faced execution if the courts approved the state's new lethal injection method. Another 26 committed suicide. In recent years, other states have abolished the death penalty and several other governors have placed moratoriums on executions.

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