California governor Gavin Newsom will sign an executive order placing a moratorium on the state's use of the death penalty on Wednesday morning, according to the governor's office. After Newsom's term is up, the future governor could choose to resume overseeing executions or continue the ban.
"Our death penalty system has been - by any measure - a failure", Newsom plans to say.
His order also points to the 164 people who have been freed from death row after they were found to be wrongfully convicted.
California has not put an inmate to death since 2006, amid legal challenges to its execution protocols and discomfort with the sentence among political leaders.
It does not provide for the release of any death row inmates from prison.
His action comes three years after California voters rejected an initiative to end the death penalty, instead passing a measure to speed up executions. But executions for more than 20 inmates who have exhausted their appeals could have resumed if those challenges were cleared up, and Newsom has said he anxious that it could happen soon.
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", said Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy (Los Angeles County) District Attorneys.
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President Donald Trump claimed during a speech last week that California Gov. Gavin Newsom called him "one of the smartest people I've ever met", which the Democrat denied during a CNN interview last night.
"I've done what I want to do", Brown said shortly before leaving office, defending his decision not to endorse death penalty repeal efforts in 2012 and 2016.
His office noted there are racial disparities in who is sentenced to death, with more than six in 10 condemned inmates being minorities. His administration's regulations are stalled by challenges in both state and federal court, though those lawsuits may be halted now that Newsom is officially withdrawing them. Republican Illinois Gov. George Ryan was the first to do so in 2000, though Illinois has since abolished the death penalty.
His office insisted he has the authority to impose the moratorium because he is not changing or commuting death sentences. I said this publicly, not just privately...
Newsom's aides said it has not yet been decided what will become of the execution chamber, or whether corrections officials have been told to top preparing for executions, for instance by running drills.
The policy will serve as an instant reprieve for the 737 people on death row in California, which has the largest death row population in the nation. Four years later San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, an ardent opponent of capital punishment, was narrowly elected as state attorney general.