News 03.13.19

California Governor Imposes Death Penalty Moratorium

By Innocence Staff

Today, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a moratorium on the death penalty under his tenure, a decisive step in eliminating the chance that an innocent person is executed in the state of California. The 737 people on California’s death row, the largest of any state in the nation, have been granted a stay of execution.

Related: Washington State Supreme Court Abolishes the Death Penalty

“Our death penalty system has been, by all measures, a failure,” Gov. Newsom stated in a press release. “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. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. Most of all, the death penalty is absolute. It’s irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error.”

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, five of the 164 death row exonerees in the country are from California, including Vicente Benavides who was exonerated last year after 25 years on death row.

Gov. Newsom’s imposition of a moratorium comes on the heels of Washington State’s momentous decision to ban capital punishment just five months ago, largely on the basis of its “arbitrary and racial biased” track record. Gov. Newsom’s executive order mandates that:

  • The 737 people currently on death row have been granted a stay of execution and will not be at risk of execution during Gov. Newsom’s tenure.
  • The execution chamber at San Quentin Prison will be closed.
  • The state’s lethal injection protocol—the state’s formally approved procedure for carrying out executions—will be eliminated.

“In declaring a moratorium on the death penalty in the state with America’s largest death row, Governor Newsom builds on the efforts of twenty other states that affirm that the ultimate punishment is racially discriminatory, fiscally irresponsible and presents a great risk of executing an innocent,” said Rebecca Brown, director of policy at the Innocence Project. “We are hopeful that this trend continues and other states follow suit in acknowledging that capital punishment is no longer a sustainable public policy.”

The Innocence Project stands by the Governor’s decision and his remarks that “the death penalty is absolute, irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error.” We hope that his leadership inspires the remaining 29 states to impose a moratorium on the death penalty so innocent lives are no longer at risk of execution.

Take action: 23% of death row sentences involved jailhouse informants, now we have a real chance to reform the system

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