California Gov. Gavin Newsom will sign a sweeping order on Wednesday putting an executive moratorium on California’s troubled death penalty, thus ordering a reprieve for the 737 people on death row.
The action suspends any further executions in California as long as Newsom is governor, his office said. But only California voters can repeal the death penalty, something they rejected narrowly three years ago.
The governor’s office said Newsom’s order will also immediately close the state’s execution chamber at San Quentin Prison, but does not otherwise change any existing convictions or sentences — and will not lead to any death row inmates being released.
“Our death penalty system has been — by any measure — a failure,” Newsom said in a written statement. “It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. But most of all, the death penalty is absolute, irreversible and irreparable in the event of a human error.”
The executive order will also argue that capital punishment is inherently unfair — applied more often to people of color and those with mental disability, according to an administration source.
A $853,000 upgrade of the execution chamber at San Quentin was completed in 2010, but it has never been used. The last execution in California occurred January 17, 2006, when Clarence Ray Allen, 76, was put to death. No executions have been carried out since.
A court-ordered moratorium on executions has been in place since February 2006, when a federal judge declared that California’s lethal injection…