Governor Newsom to Halt Death Penalty; President Trump Is Not Thrilled

Saul Bowman
March 15, 2019

The new governor of California yesterday suspended executions indefinitely in the state, which has more than twice as many prisoners on death row as any other. He also said the death penalty "has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black or brown, or can't afford expensive legal representation".

"I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people", Newsom said.

"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.

The move has been... Over that same period, 79 death row inmates have died of natural causes and 26 have died by suicide, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

"Do we have the right to kill?"

Before Governor Newsom's move the 25 current condemned inmates who have exhausted all of their appeals could have faced execution. (Who, it's worth mentioning, is the ex-husband of Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle.) California hasn't had an execution since 2006, when it executed Clarence Allen.

Newsom's decision does not abolish the death penalty in California, but it does end executions for as long as Newsom is governor.

Since 1978, when California voters reinstated the death penalty, at least five men on death row have been exonerated, according to the capital punishment tracker Death Penalty Information Center.

He said he's considering commuting death sentences as "a next step" once state Supreme Court justices explain why they blocked 10 non-death commutations sought by former Gov.

With Newsom's move, California joins Colorado, Pennsylvania and OR as the fourth state to place a moratorium on the death penalty, though the length and reasoning for the moratoriums vary from state to state.

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Newsom's executive order deviates from the expressed will of California voters, who rejected two statewide ballot measures in the last six years that called for a repeal of the death penalty. The Democrat's order will immediately close the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison and withdraw California's lethal injection protocol.

Under the governor's reprieve, all 737 people on death row will remain in prison and, on paper, sentenced to death.

"Our death penalty system has been - by any measure - a failure", he added.

In 2017, Graham and his partner, anti-death penalty activist Phyllis Prentice, gave an interview to Al-Jazeera, where they discussed finding love while Graham was on death row. During his tenure, Newsom gained national attention for his support of same-sex marriage, especially during the California Prop 8 battle.

A copy of the executive order signed today can be found here.

Republicans condemned the action on Wednesday, saying Newsom's action was an offense to the families of victims of gruesome crimes.

"The question is how it ends, and Texas will need to be dragged kicking and screaming into modern times and it may take the Supreme Court to do that".

Three inmates convicted of San Luis Obispo County murders are now on death row: Michael Whisenhunt, Richard Benson and Rex Krebs.

With 737 inmates on death row, that equates to a possible 30 who are innocent, he said.


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