Published: Thu, March 14, 2019
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

California governor puts moratorium on executions

California governor puts moratorium on executions

The governor plans to sign an executive order to block the death penalty in his state.

Public opinion in California on capital punishment has shifted dramatically in the past few decades, with increasing numbers of people preferring the option of life without the possibility of parole to the death penalty in most cases.

California has executed 13 inmates since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 and the state has the most people on death row in the country.

President Donald Trump, who has suggested expanding the death penalty so drug dealers are subject to it, lamented that California's "stone cold killers" will not be executed under Newsom's order.

Senator Kamala Harris, who is among a crowded field of candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said she welcomed Newsom's move to end the "deeply flawed system of capital punishment in California".

"It's a very emotional place that I stand", Newsom told reporters after signing the order.

Trump has always been an advocate of the death penalty, even before he entered politics.

Death penalty opponents hope California's suspension of executions will inspire other states to follow suit.

Newsom recently called for more DNA testing in the case of death row inmate Kevin Cooper, who says he was framed in 1983 hatchet and knife killings of four people, including two children, in Chino Hills.

"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 in a prepared statement obtained by news agencies. A judge is reviewing the latest execution protocol submitted by the state, and Newsom believed that its approval could come soon - clearing the way for executions to begin in California again. But most of all, the death penalty is absolute.

California hasn't executed anyone since 2006, when Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor.

The third main angle of Newsom's argument is that the death penalty is "costly and burdensome", costing the state $5 billion since 1978.

"There is a lot of literature and studies out there that show that the death penalty is a deeply broken system for a lot of different reasons", the American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Shilpi Agarwal said.

Since 1973, a total of 164 prisoners nationally - including five from California - have been freed after they were wrongfully convicted, according to "The Innocence List" maintained by The Death Penalty Information Center.

But Newsom's action will anger death penalty proponents.

Most industrialized nations have abolished the death penalty, yet the USA executes more people than any other democracy on the planet. California voters previously rejected an initiative to abolish capital punishment in the state and instead, in 2016, voted in favor of Proposition 66 to help speed up executions.

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