Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to sign an executive order Wednesday suspending the death penalty in California and granting reprieves for the 737 inmates on the state’s largest-in-the-nation Death Row.
The order also will withdraw the state’s lethal injection protocol, the subject of years of litigation and close the death chamber at San Quentin State Prison. Information released by the governor’s office Tuesday night does not suggest Newsom will commute any sentences. The directive will not release any prisoners or alter any current sentences.
“I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people,” Newsom plans to say Wednesday, according to excerpts of prepared remarks provided by the governor’s press office Tuesday. “In short, the death penalty is inconsistent with our bedrock values and strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Californian.”
The death penalty was last carried out in the state in 2006, when Clarence Ray Allen was executed by lethal injection. Capital punishment, approved by voters in 1978, has been on hold amid lawsuits challenging the lethal injection method and the administrative process for approving its use. Twenty-five inmates on Death Row have exhausted all their appeals.
California voters in 2016 rejected a ballot initiative to end the death penalty and instead approved Proposition 66, which mandated a series of changes to the appellate process and lethal injection protocols aimed at speeding up capital sentences. The state Supreme Court upheld the initiative in 2017.
“Death penalty opponents made their case to the people and lost,” initiative backer Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, said after the court’s ruling.