Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on Wednesday that put a moratorium on the executions of the 737 inmates now incarcerated in the Western Hemisphere's largest death row.
In the United States, the death penalty is inevitably plagued with arbitrariness, racial disparities, and error; 164 people, including four from California, have been released from death row since 1973 after being later found innocent.
Newsom signed an executive order granting reprieves to death row inmates and closing the state's execution chamber.
Newsom believes the death penalty is ineffective as a crime deterrent, expensive, and racially discriminatory, saying it "discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can't afford expensive legal representation". "And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual".
"Our death penalty system has been - by any measure - a failure", Newsom plans to say.
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.
California has not put an inmate to death since 2006, amid legal challenges to its execution protocols and discomfort among political leaders.
His order also points to the 164 people who have been freed from death row after they were found to be wrongfully convicted.
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Death penalty opponents hope California's suspension of executions will inspire other states to follow suit.
"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", she said in a statement.
President Donald Trump weighed in on Newsom's decision Wednesday morning, presumably after catching the news on Fox & Friends, and said he was "not thrilled" by the decision. Peterson was taken to death row at San Quentin State Prison after being sentenced to die for murdering his pregnant wife, Laci.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) death row list, 737 inmates are being granting temporary reprieves through this executive order, which is the largest in the nation. Capital punishment is considered a legal penalty in the State of California.
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.
Preventing executions through a blanket action is an abuse of the governor's power, death-penalty supporter Kent Scheidegger told The Bee in an interview earlier this month.
"There is a lot of literature and studies out there that show that the death penalty is a deeply broken system for a lot of different reasons", the American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Shilpi Agarwal said.
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