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What Gavin Newsom’s Moratorium on the Death Penalty Means for California’s Death Row Inmates

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California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a moratorium on the state’s death penalty during a news conference at the California State Capitol on March 13th, 2019, in Sacramento, California.

On Wednesday morning, 737 people on death row in California learned that the state’s governor will refuse to let the state kill them during his time in office. With an executive order, newly elected Governor Gavin Newsom placed a moratorium on the death penalty in the country’s most populous state.

“Our death penalty system has been—by any measure—a failure,” Newsom said in prepared remarks. “The intentional killing of another person is wrong. And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual.”

Because of California’s large population and its prominence in national politics, some believe Newsom’s decision could influence the broader national conversation on the death penalty. Since 1846, when Michigan became the first state to abolish the death penalty, 20 other states have followed suit, including Washington State just last year.

Here are some key takeaways from Newsom’s executive order.

Newsom Has Neither Ended the Death Penalty Nor Saved Anyone From Death Row

As Newsom’s predecessor, former California Governor Jerry Brown, finished his term, many advocates called on Brown to commute the sentences of the 737 prisoners on death row. Brown declined, in a move that some called a “political gift” to Newsom, giving the new governor an opportunity to take a stand on an issue that could give him national prominence.

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