California governor to block more than 700 executions with executive order

13 Mars, 2019, 08:42 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom

California Governor Gavin Newsom will announce a moratorium on executions and a temporary reprieve for all 737 inmates on death row in the state.

The governor's office said Newsom's order will also immediately close the state's execution chamber at San Quentin Prison, but does not otherwise change any existing convictions or sentences - and will not lead to any death row inmates being released.

California's governor is set to issue a moratorium on capital punishment in the US's most populous state, providing a reprieve for hundreds of inmates sentenced to death.

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.

Newsom has recognized the cruelty, the moral and fiscal costs, and the discriminatory nature of death sentencing in the state.

Newsom, who on Tuesday night hinted at a "major policy announcement", plans to sign an executive order setting the changes in place on Wednesday morning at the state capitol, the source said. Cooper has long maintained his innocence, and former California Gov. Jerry Brown over their opposition to the death penalty. Governor Newsom supported both initiatives.

Ultimately, Newsom decided the moratorium was in the best interest of the state, because he believes the death penalty "is inconsistent with our bedrock values and strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Californian".

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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.

Since 1973, a total of 164 prisoners nationally - including five from California - have been freed after they were wrongfully convicted, according to "The Innocence List" maintained by The Death Penalty Information Center.

Newsom recently called for more DNA testing in the case of death row inmate Kevin Cooper, who says he was framed in 1983 hatchet and knife killings of four people, including two children, in Chino Hills.

Newsom called the death penalty "a failure" that "has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can't afford expensive legal representation". "But most of all, the death penalty is absolute, irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error".

"The intentional killing of another person is wrong and as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual", he said in prepared remarks. "That is powerfully demonstrated by their approval of Proposition 66 in 2016 to ensure the death penalty is implemented, and their rejection of measures to end the death penalty in 2016 and 2006".

In the USA, 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.

"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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