California governor to block more than 700 executions with executive order

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

In a statement announcing the executive order released by Newsom's office Tuesday, the Democratic governor argued that executing criminals is "inconsistent with our bedrock values", and he vowed that no prisoner would be put to death while he's in office.

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.

The president of the United States and the governor of California engaged in a game of "he said, he said" recently over whether Gavin Newsom's praise of Donald Trump included privately calling him "one of the smartest people I've ever met".

"Our death penalty system has been - by any measure - a failure", Newsom plans to say in his remarks. His administration argues that capital punishment has been a failure, pointing at pervasive inequality running through the U.S. criminal justice system, the significant number of innocent people who have been wrongfully convicted, and evidence that the costly system doesn't increase safety.

The last execution in California was when the state put Clarence Ray Allen, 76, to death on January 17, 2006.

In 2016 while serving as lieutenant governor, Newsom endorsed a failed California ballot measure that would have repealed the death penalty - an issue so controversial that then-Gov.

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Mike Semanchik, managing attorney for the California Innocence Project - which works to exonerate inmates on death row - cheered the move. Newsom's decision was readily criticized by the president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, Michele Hanisee, The Sacramento Bee reported.

The third main angle of Newsom's argument is that the death penalty is "costly and burdensome", costing the state $5 billion since 1978.

In some other states that have abolished the death penalty, the move away from capital punishment began with a governor who refused to sign death warrants, she said. He's not commuting any death sentences, which in many cases would require agreement from the state Supreme Court.

The moratorium will be in place for the duration of Newsom's time in office, the governor's office said. Death row inmates are also much more likely to have a mental illness, brain damage or brain injury, or to be intellectually disabled. "When he told me that, a little piece of me died", he said.

Newsom told reporters last month that the prospect of executions resuming has been weighing on him. Another 26 committed suicide. Federal courts ordered a halt to executions until the California department of corrections and rehabilitation (CDCR) could ensure its lethal injection protocol was administered without risk of exposing inmates to excessive pain. However, the death penalty has disproportionately affected people of color and the mentally ill.

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