- California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on Wednesday morning halting the death penalty while he is in office.
- Striking photos tweeted out by the governor’s office demonstrate a provision of that order: closing the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison.
- “In America, we execute more human beings than any other democracy on Earth,” Newsom said on Wednesday. “Just in 2017, the United States joined Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Pakistan, China and Egypt as the world’s top executioners.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on Wednesday morning, halting the death penalty while he is in office.
Striking photos tweeted out by the governor’s office demonstrate a provision of that order: closing the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison.
One photo shows a sign being placed up on the gas chamber, denoting that it was closed due to the executive order. SFGate reported that gas hasn’t been used in an execution in California since the 1990s; the state switched to using lethal injection to carry out capital punishment.
Another photo provided to the Associated Press by the California Department of Corrections, depicts officers carrying a chair used for the death penalty towards a truck.
A final image shows two death penalty chamber chairs sitting in the back of a truck.
California has not carried out an execution since 2006. In 2016, there was an unsuccessful ballot measure (Proposition 62) to try to outlaw the practice of capital punishment. During that same year, however, Proposition 66 passed, which helped speed up the process, “changing the procedures governing state court appeals and petitions that challenge death penalty convictions and sentences,” according to Ballotpedia.
Newsom’s executive order does not end the practice in perpetuity – which would go against the will of the choice voters made in 2016.
Rather it does several things, according to the governor’s office: It places a moratorium on the death penalty offering a temporary reprieve to the 737 people on death row, closes down San Quentin’s death penalty chamber, and withdraws the state’s lethal injection protocol.
It doesn’t alter convictions or sentences and no prisoners will be released.
“In America, we execute more human beings than any other democracy on earth,” Newsom said on Wednesday. “Just in 2017, the United States joined Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Pakistan, China and Egypt as the world’s top executioners.”
Politicians, including the 2020 presidential candidate and former California attorney general Sen. Kamala Harris, praised the decision, as did groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, and Amnesty International USA.
“This is an important step towards establishing a better criminal justice system that respects human rights,” Kristina Roth, senior program officer of Amnesty International USA’s criminal justice program, said in a statement sent to INSIDER.
“California has made a significant move toward being on the right side of history as momentum continues against the death penalty. While this is an important development, we will continue to work for the complete abolition of the death penalty in all states and nations around the world.”
“The people have voted for the death penalty eleven times since 1972, including three times in the last seven years,” Criminal Justice Foundation Legal Director Kent Scheidegger said in a statement.
“The Governor’s decision to grant a blanket reprieve to prevent executions is an abuse of power and a slap in the face of the families of murder victims.”
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