California Governor Gavin Newsom Places Moratorium on Death Penalty

This week California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a moratorium on capital punishment, providing a reprieve for 737 inmates on death row. This is fantastic news for those of us who have been working for years to abolish the death penalty.

Newsom stated:

I cannot sign off on executing hundreds and hundreds of human beings, knowing that among them will be innocent human beings. I believe the death penalty is wrong and I am exercising my right pursuant to the will of the voters and the constitution.

The governor has expressed his opposition to capital punishment for a long time, and he explained that this was not simply a political, choice: “This is about who I am as a human being. This is about what I can and cannot do. To me, this is the right thing to do.”

California will now join Colorado, Oregon and Pennsylvania in having a governor-issued moratorium on death row executions.

The state has the largest death row population in the country: One in four U.S. death row inmates is incarcerated in California. Of these individuals, 60 percent are people of color, and overall these inmates are more likely to have a mental illness, brain damage or intellectual disability.

There hasn’t been a government-ordered execution in California since 2006, when federal courts mandated the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to cease executions until the department could be sure its lethal injection protocol did not expose inmates to excessive pain.

The state has seen two recent attempts to abolish the death penalty, and both lost by a slim number of votes. In 2016, voters passed Proposition 66, which would speed up the legal process of executions, by 51.13 percent to 48.87 percent. They rejected Proposition 62, which sought to make life without the possibility of parole the strongest punishment in California, by 46.4 percent to 53.6 percent. So very close. In 2012, voters also rejected abolishing the death penalty by a slim margin.

Governor Newsom’s action is in line with what’s happening across the country. The Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in 1972 but reinstated it in 1976. In the following 20 years, the number of people sent to death row soared, but in the past 20 years, it has declined. In 1996, 315 people were assigned to death row; by 2016, that number had dropped to 31.

Capital punishment in the U.S. is on the way out, as it should be.

Even though there are 30 U.S. states where the death penalty is still legal, many of these places haven’t had an execution in decades. New Hampshire and Kansas, for example, have not executed an inmate in over 50 years.

According to Death Penalty Information Center, 1999 saw a high of 98 killings by the government, but the numbers have declined since then. 2018 saw 25 executions, and so far there have been three in 2019.

But three executions is three too many. Other industrialized Western countries abolished capital punishment years ago. The system in the U.S. is both flawed and morally wrong. No one has the right to take another person’s life. And the advent of DNA testing has led to the recognition of many wrongful convictions and death sentences in the past.

As Death Penalty Focus explains:

[The death penalty] institutionalizes discrimination against the poor and people of color, diverts attention and financial resources away from preventative measures that would actually increase public safety, risks the execution of innocent people, and does not deter crime.

Thank you, Gavin Newsom, for standing up for what is right.

Take Action!

Thank Gov. Newsom for championing criminal justice reform by signing this Care2 petition.

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Photo Credit: Mike D/Flickr


Daniel N
Daniel N5 days ago

thanks for sharing

Beverly D
Beverly D15 days ago

It's so refreshing to see the many that oppose the death penalty, thank you... I have Always been against the death penalty and will forever remain so - likewise I am Pro life. We are Not God! I fought very hard for Troy Davis, a wrongfully convicted man that was put to death, then later to be found to be an innocent man - there are so very many such cases that cannot be undone. I pray to see the day that there is no longer Any states that still have the death penalty to be ended Forever, with no room for conflict on this matter! Thanks, and comments, God bless~

Amparo Fabiana C

Whatever it takes death penalty has not been working.

Glenn Young
Glenn Young24 days ago

Sure, lives are important, very very important, but I fear there is no saving grace for the rest of us, so I'm not singing his praises quite yet. California is progressively becoming a place that many native Californian's can't afford to live anymore; when a family of four, with a six figure income, no debt but a mortgage, and a conservative budget is forced to live from check to check THERE IS A PROBLEM. If you listen to him and analyze his words, with any rational intelligence at all, he is saying that his plans will cost billions and billions; debt will go up, taxes will go up, and the cost of living will go up. I fear that these things are only going to get worse under this governor. I'm not saying that his goals don't have merit, I've heard some wonderful ideas, but at what cost. To carry out some of his plans without increasing the tax burden on citizens who are already some of the highest taxed and fee'd in the nation would take decades. Where is this money going to come from?

Leo Custer
Leo C24 days ago

Thank you for posting!

Sarah A
Sarah A27 days ago

Well done

heather g
heather g28 days ago


danii p
danii p29 days ago

thanks very much

danii p
danii p29 days ago

thanks very much

D E Martin
D E Martinabout a month ago

Good news