SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The officer of Governor Gavin Newsom announced the signing of an executive order putting an end to the death penalty in California.
On Wednesday, March 13, 2019, Governor Newsom signed the executive order putting an indefinite stop to executions of the 737 inmates on death row. In addition, the order called for an immediate closure of the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison. “The intentional killing of another person is wrong and as Governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual,” said Governor Newsom.
The order does not provide the release of any inmate from prison or otherwise alter the current conviction or sentence. According to the governor’s officials, a quarter of those on death row in the United States are in California. Over sixty percent of those on California’s death row are people of color. “Our death penalty system has been, by all measures, a failure,” said Governor Newsom. “It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation. It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent.”
According to a Governor’s office news release, a 2005 study found that those convicted of killing whites were more than three times as likely to be sentenced to death as those convicted of killing blacks and more than four times as likely as those convicted of killing Latinos. In 2018, 18 of the 25 executed, had mental illness, brain injury, developmental brain damage, or IQ in the intellectually disabled range. Others were victims of chronic serious childhood trauma, neglect, and/or abuse. Washington State Supreme Court struck down the death penalty as unconstitutional and “racially biased” in 2018.
Since 1978, California has spent $5 billion on a death penalty system that has executed 13 people. Currently, 25 death row inmates in California have exhausted all of their state and federal appeals and are eligible for an execution date. Wrongfully convicted inmates have been sentenced to death, 164; 5 in California, have been freed from death row when found to be wrongfully convicted. “It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. Most of all, the death penalty is absolute. It’s irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error,” added Newsom.
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