SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — California governor Gavin Newsom will sign an executive order placing a moratorium on the state’s use of the death penalty on Wednesday morning, according to the governor’s office. The order will reprieve all individuals sentenced to death in California.
The order will also immediately close the execution chamber at San Quentin and states that the directive “does not provide for the release of any individual from prison or otherwise alter any current conviction or sentence,” according to Newsom’s office.
There are currently 737 people on death row in California, making it the state with the largest death row population in the U.S.–one in four people sentenced to the death penalty in the country are sentenced in California.
Officials from the governor’s office said Newsom plans to say the following during Wednesday’s executive order signing:
“Here is the bottom line: Our death penalty system has been — by any measure — a failure. 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. But most of all, the death penalty is absolute. Irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error.”
Newsom and the executive order argue that the death penalty is unfair and unequally applied based on race and mental disability, citing a 2005 study that found that individuals convicted of killing white victims were more than three times as likely to be sentenced to death than those convicted of killing blacks and over four times as likely as those convicted of killing Latinos.
Another key point of Newsom’s argument is the wrongful conviction and subsequent overturning of inmates on death row. He cites a 2014 study, which estimated that 1 in 25 people sentenced to death would, hypothetically, be eventually exonerated from their sentence if time allowed evidence to arise.
The third main angle of Newsom’s argument is that the death penalty is “costly and burdensome,” costing the state $5 billion since 1978. He says there is no evidence that it makes California any safer.
Marc Klaas, a prominent victim’s rights advocate, said Newsom told him personally Tuesday of his intention to sign the order in Sacramento, and he is not happy.
“I’m livid. I’m beside myself. When he told me that, a little piece of me died,” he said. “He said he’s not going to allow executions on his watch to the extent that he can.”
“I told him these are people who kill babies and women and cops,” Klaas said.
Klaas’s daughter, 12-year old Polly Klaas, was killed in Petaluma in 1993. Richard Allen Davis was later sentenced to death for kidnapping, raping and murdering her.
The last time an inmate was executed in California was in 2006 under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Below is a list of sources that Newsom’s office cited for data: