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California Gov. Newsom overrides state law to suspend death penalty with executive order

This isn't what he said he'd do before he got elected

Steve Jennings/WireImage

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is putting a stop to the death penalty in California for now, issuing an executive order that provides temporary relief to more than 700 death row inmates, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Newsom's order suspends the death penalty in the state, shuts down the death chamber at San Quentin, and ends the state's efforts to come up with procedures for lethal injections without risk of botched or painful executions.

"The intentional killing of another person is wrong," Newsom said. "And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual."

How did we get here?

California voters have, more than once, affirmed their desire for a death penalty.

"The voters of the State of California support the death penalty," said Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. "That is powerfully demonstrated by their approval of Proposition 66 in 2016 to ensure the death penalty is implemented, and their rejection of measures to end the death penalty in 2016 and 2006. Gov. Newsom... is usurping the express will of California voters."

Newsom himself acknowledged before being elected governor that the voters have made a decision on the issue, and he said he would respect that.

"[Newsom] recognizes that California voters have spoken on the issue and, if elected governor, he'd respect the will of the electorate by following and implementing the law," said Dan Newman, a spokesman for Newsom when he was lieutenant governor.

Why did he do this?

Newsom believes the death penalty is ineffective as a crime deterrent, expensive, and racially discriminatory, saying it "discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and 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 in a statement.

What happens now?

Newsom's order is in effect as long as he is governor. He has not committed one way or the other about whether he will push another death penalty repeal initiative in 2020.

One last thing…
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