California governor suspends death penalty

President Donald Trump claimed during a speech last week that California Gov. Gavin Newsom called him "one of the smartest people I've ever met", which the Democrat denied during a CNN interview last night.

In addition to the moratorium, Newsom's order will also withdraw California's legal injection protocol and close the execution chamber at San Quentin, where all death row inmates are imprisoned. Nor should it be surprising that President Trump weighed in Wednesday morning to oppose Newsom's move.

The California moratorium will become the fourth in the nation, following similar ones issued under Democratic governors in Oregon, Colorado, and California.

"I've gotten a sense over many, many years of the disparity in our criminal justice system", Newsom said during a press conference on Wednesday.

Ellen Kreitzberg, a death penalty expert and opponent at Santa Clara University law school in California, welcomed Newsom's move.

Newsom, who has always been opposed to capital punishment, argued that a country cannot claim to be a world leader while sanctioning "the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people". California hasn't executed anyone since 2006, under then-Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and inmates are far more likely to die of old age. In fact, the murder rate in states with the death penalty is consistently higher than in states without it.

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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".

"Racial bias and unfairness run deep throughout the justice system, but especially when it comes to the death penalty", she added. In that same election, state voters narrowly approved a measure to speed up death row inmates' executions by limiting their time for appeals to five years. Human Rights Watch believes these rights can not be reconciled with the death penalty, a form of punishment unique in its cruelty and finality.

With Newsom's move, California joins Colorado, Pennsylvania and OR as the fourth state to place a moratorium on the death penalty, though the length and reasoning for the moratoriums vary from state to state. Its death row has the most inmates of any USA state.

"The intentional killing of another person is wrong and as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual", he said in prepared remarks. At least 18 of the 25 people who were executed previous year had significant evidence of mental illness, intellectually damaging brain injuries or chronic childhood trauma or abuse, according to a Death Penalty Information Center report released in December.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have already abolished capital punishment.

Nonetheless, Newsom's action is the latest indication of how California politics have changed around capital punishment.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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