California Gov. Gavin Newsom joins 18 states in outlawing death penalty


The people have clearly spoken and it is the responsibility of the chief executive of the state to execute the laws. In February, the association representing deputy district attorneys in Los Angeles County accused the state's elected officials of foot-dragging on enforcing the death penalty and of substituting their own values for the ratified votes of the majority of California's electorate.

President Donald Trump says Newsom is "defying voters".

Newsom signed an executive order granting reprieves to death row inmates and closing the state's execution chamber.

That was the claim Trump made in his hours-long speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of conservative movers and shakers.

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".

The Golden State has the largest death row in the United States, with some 737 inmates now residing there.

Abolitionists expressed hope that Newsom's decision will convince other states across the country to institute their own moratoriums.

Evan Mandery, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that the governor's change shouldn't be seen as a bellwether for the country at large. It will also contribute to a broader effort by death penalty abolitionists to oppose capital punishment through the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. "California has historically been a massive producer of death sentences, but very rarely executes anyone", said Mandery, who has written several books on the death penalty.

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Executions have increasingly been the domain of red states, thanks largely to Texas's dominance in capital punishment.

While Newsom's gesture may impress an increasingly left-wing Democratic Party base, it is sure to be controversial on both sides of the aisle. He said having a governor campaign against the death penalty could make the difference in convincing voters to repeal it.

California has not executed anyone in more than a decade because of legal challenges to the state's execution protocol.

Stephen Lam / ReutersAn inmate stands against a fence at the Adjustment Center yard during a media tour of California's death row at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California 29 December, 2015.

Newsom's office said 25 condemned inmates have exhausted all of their appeals and could have faced execution if the courts approved the state's new lethal injection method.

Since California's last execution, its death row population has grown to house one of every four condemned inmates in the United States.

The Keeping Up with the Kardashians star, 38, posted a series of tweets on Tuesday night, praising governor Gavin Newsom's decision to halt the death penalty in California. Voters rejected ballot measures to end the death penalty in the state in 2012 and 2016. More than three-quarters of Republicans support executions while only about a third of Democrats agree.

"I did this with the victims in mind", Newsom said.

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