Governor Gavin Newsom imposed a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty in California on Wednesday, granting a reprieve to 737 condemned inmates - the largest death row population in the United States. Harris called the death penalty "immoral, discriminatory, ineffective and a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars" - yet, while she was California attorney general, she did not take an official position on ballot measures to abolish the death penalty.
The governor is meant to sign the new order later on Wednesday.
But Newsom's action angered death penalty proponents.
The state joins Colorado, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, which have similar bans, and 20 states that have abolished the death penalty, it said. Death row inmates are also much more likely to have a mental illness, brain damage or brain injury, or to be intellectually disabled. A judge is reviewing the latest execution protocol submitted by the state, and Newsom believed that its approval could come soon - clearing the way for executions to begin in California again.
But in the end, the Democratic governor said he made an emotional decision: "I can not sign off on executing hundreds and hundreds of human beings". Though voters in 2016 narrowly approved a ballot measure to speed up the punishment, no condemned inmate faced imminent execution.
His office said more than six in 10 condemned California inmates are minorities, citing racial disparities in who is sentenced to die.
The order will also immediately close the execution chamber at San Quentin and states that the directive "does not provide for the release of any individual from prison or otherwise alter any current conviction or sentence", according to Newsom's office.
Newsom may have a point to at least looking into the state's approach to the death penalty.
"Symbolically it is very significant", Robert Dunham, the executive director of the not-for-profit Death Penalty Information Center, told the Guardian.
The order calls for the immediate closure of the execution chamber at San Quentin Prison.
California has not executed anyone in more than a decade because of legal challenges to the state's execution protocol.
The governor signed an executive order that halts executions for the 737 inmates now on death row, closes the never-before-used execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison and withdraws the state's lethal injections protocol.
Today, it's hard to find a mainstream Democrat in California who supports the death penalty.
Gavin Newsom (D) on Wednesday announced an indefinite moratorium on the state's death penalty, suspending a practice he believes discriminates against marginalized communities while failing to make the state any safer.
"I don't think it's a harbinger of anything that matters because California is such an outlier and the places that need to change are all in the deep south", Mandery said.
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