Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order suspending the death penalty in California on Tuesday.
The governor also ordered the withdrawal of the state’s lethal injection policy and the immediate closure of the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison.
Newsom’s decision provided an immediate stay of execution for the 737 prisoners on death row. California has the largest death row population in the United States. His order does not change their current conviction or sentence.
In a statement on Wednesday, Newsom said, “The intentional killing of another person is wrong and as Governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual.”
Newsom believes California’s death penalty is a “failure”
Additionally, he said, “Our death penalty system has been, by all measures, a failure. 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.”
Furthermore, Newsom said California’s death penalty system “wasted billions of taxpayer dollars.” Since 1978, the state has spent $5 billion on the system that executed 13 inmates.
Most of all, the death penalty is absolute. It’s irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error,” said the governor.
His office noted that some innocent people received death sentences in California. Since 1973, five inmates condemned of death penalty in the state were freed after they were found to be wrongly convicted.
Last month, Newsom signed an executive order allowing the retesting of additional DNA evidences in the case involving inmate Kevin Cooper, who was condemned of death penalty. The governor ordered the use of the most scientifically reliable DNA collection and analysis methodologies. Last year, former Gov. Jerry Brown also ordered a limited testing of four evidences in the case.
Newsom and Brown’s purpose is to make sure that all relevant evidences in the case are “carefully and fairly examined.
The executions in California have been halted since 2006 when an inmate facing death penalty challenged the state’s protocols for lethal injection. A judge is reviewing the state’s latest execution protocol, which could be approved soon.
Currently, there are 25 California death row inmates who already exhausted their state and federal appeals. They are now eligible for an execution date.