The new governor of California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed an executive order temporarily prohibiting executions. 737 inmates on the largest death row in the nation are now reprieved, according to AP News.
Newsom withdrew the lethal injection regulations and moved to close down the new San Quentin State Prison execution chamber, which has never been used.
“It’s a very emotional place that I stand,” Newsom said. “This is about who I am as a human being, this is about what I can or cannot do; to me this was the right thing to do.”
Newsom, a democratic governor, calls the death penalty “a failure” that “has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation.” He additionally said that sometimes innocent people are convicted and put to death.
His views on the death penalty were shaped when 40 years ago, he learned of his father and grandfather’s advocacy for a man who was wrongfully convicted.
“I was a young man learning that life story,” he said. “I’ve gotten a sense over a course of many, many years over the disparities in our criminal justice system.”
Trump tweeted in response to Newsom’s decision: “Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!”
No one has been executed in California since 2006, during Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s time in office. California’s death row is the largest in the nation- one out of four condemned inmates in the U.S. are held in California.
Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy (Los Angeles County) District Attorneys, said that Newsom “is usurping the express will of California voters and substituting his personal preferences via this hasty and ill-considered moratorium on the death penalty,”
Newsom’s decision was applauded by Senator Kamala Harris, who is now running for president. “As a career law enforcement official, I have opposed the death penalty because it is immoral, discriminatory, ineffective, and a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars,” she said.
Newsom’s move will certainly be challenged in court, but aides say the state Constitution grants him the power to give reprieve to inmates.
Newsom says the death penalty is a waste of taxpayer dollars, as California has spent $5 billion since 1978 on death row. More, Newsom says it is “irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error.”