Governor Gavin Newsom has been a long-time opponent of capital punishment, calling it “an archaic mistake.”
The move would release 737 people from death row, the largest number of people awaiting execution in any state, according to a CNN report. With this decision, California would follow Colorado, Pennsylvania and Oregon in placing a moratorium on the death penalty.
Newson, who is Catholic, has been vocal about his opposition to the death penalty. As lieutenant governor he was one of the few statewide politicians to endorse a failed 2016 ballot initiative that would have abolished the death penalty.
At the time Newsom acknowledged that the issue was controversial – both then-Gov. Jerry Brown and then-Attorney General Kamala Harris did not take positions on it – noting, that the death penalty “raises deeply felt passions on all sides” but expressed his confidence that Americans would come to see it “as an archaic mistake.”
In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times indicated that he would take action on the issue early in his administration.
“The minute I got elected, in the transition, I prioritized this issue,” Newsom told The L.A. Times. “I don’t want to react to something. I want to be proactive. And I have been very proactive in trying to determine what the best path is.”
“Our death penalty system has been — by any measure — a failure,” Newsom is expected to say in his remarks today. “It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or cannot 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.”
“The intentional killing of another person is wrong, and as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual,” read his prepared remarks.