California Gov. Gavin Newsom to Suspend Death Penalty, Defy Voters, Victims

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

Newsom defended a $25 million proposed California program to assist asylum seekers who cross the border into the state because he affirms the federal government isn't doing its job.

In a statement announcing the executive order, due Wednesday, Newsom called the death penalty "premeditated and discriminatory".

"Our death penalty system has been - by any measure - a failure", Newsom plans to say in his remarks. "The intentional killing of another person is wrong".

Gov. Gavin Newsom is putting a moratorium on the death penalty in California, sparing the lives of more than 700 death-row inmates.

Newsom cited discrimination against minorities and the poor and his Catholic background as the reasons why he "will not oversee the execution of any individual".

Voters have narrowly supported the death penalty, most recently in 2016 when they voted to speed up the process. "California will not. They won't do their job, we'll do their job", he said.

A condemned inmate stands in a cell in the yard outside of San Quentin State Prison's death row adjustment center on August 15, 2016 in San Quentin, California.

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In this February 11, 2019 file photo Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom answers questions at a Capitol news conference, in Sacramento, Calif. It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can't afford expensive legal representation.

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.

Newsom's order is in effect as long as he is governor. A Pew Research Center poll completed past year found that a small majority of Americans support the death penalty but that those views were split by party.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have already abolished capital punishment. Newsom said he anxious that the executions of more than 20 inmates who have exhausted their appeals would be resumed. At least 18 of the 25 people who were executed previous year had significant evidence of mental illness, intellectually damaging brain injuries or chronic childhood trauma or abuse, according to a Death Penalty Information Center report released in December.

Newsom made the unusual decision through an executive order.

At that time, Newsom said he understood that the issue "raises deeply felt passions on all sides" but he believed that Americans ultimately would look back on the death penalty "as an archaic mistake". "It tells us a lot about the state of the death penalty in the United States when two of the five largest death rows in the country have moratoria on executions and one-third of everybody on death row is incarcerated in a state that has a moratorium".

"The disparities are very real and raw to me now especially as I spend every week working on the issues of paroles and commutations", he said.

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