Gavin Newsom (D) is putting a stop to the death penalty in California for now, issuing an executive order that provides temporary relief to more than 700 death row inmates, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
"I do not believe that a civilised 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", he is expected to say. According to an NAACP-LDF report, of around 740 prisoners on death row in California, 36 percent are black, though black people make up less than 7 percent of the state's population.
The governor plans to sign an executive order to block the death penalty in his state. 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.
Public opinion in California on capital punishment has shifted dramatically in the past few decades, with increasing numbers of people preferring the option of life without the possibility of parole to the death penalty in most cases.
There are now 24 inmates on death row who have run out of appeals to their sentence.
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The order would also withdraw lethal injection regulations. California's last execution was in 2006, under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Marc Klaas, a prominent victim's rights advocate, said Newsom told him personally Tuesday of his intention to sign the order in Sacramento, and he is not happy. "And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual".
In this February 12, 2019, file photo, Calif., Gov. Gavin Newsom receives applause after delivering his first State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif.
Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager, president of the California District Attorneys Association, also criticized Newsom for circumventing the will of a majority of voters.
However, in 2012 and again in 2016, Californian voters rejected ballot measures aimed at abolishing the death penalty. It will not affect inmates' convictions or their imprisonment, other than eliminating their death sentences, the source said. "The number of men and women on death row who suffer from severe mental illness or impairment is shocking". He has not committed one way or the other about whether he will push another death penalty repeal initiative in 2020.
The governor's decision brings California in line with Colorado, Oregon, and Pennsylvania - all of which have governor-issued moratoria - and adds momentum to a national movement working to end capital punishment.