California Governor Halts Capital Punishment
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment on March 13, temporarily rescuing the 737 California inmates on death row, reports the New York Times.
Governor Newsom, an opponent of capital punishment and the death penalty, cited concerns about the high cost of the death penalty, racial disparities in its application, and wrongful convictions. He began serving as California governor in 2019 following the midterm elections. In a video posted on the YouTube channel of the Mercury News, Newsom also questioned whether society has the right to take a life. “I know people think eye for eye, but if you rape, we don’t rape,” he said. “And I think if someone kills, we don’t kill. We’re better than that.”
He continued, “I cannot sign off on executing hundreds and hundreds of human beings, knowing—knowing —that among them will be innocent human beings.” A recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that the innocent conviction rate of defendants sentenced to death in the United States is at least 4.1 percent. Citing this study in his speech, Newsom claimed, “If that’s the case, that means if we move forward executing 737 people in California, we will have executed roughly 30 people that are innocent. I don’t know about you. I can’t sign my name to that. I can’t be party to that. I won’t be able to sleep at night.”
The announcement runs slightly against the desires of Californians who voted in a 2016 ballot in favor of speeding up executions and against a broad repeal of the death penalty. Both results were within five percentage points. According to CNN, lawmakers are currently working on another ballot proposition regarding the death penalty that could go on California’s ballot in 2020.