California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Tuesday, March 12th that he will sign an executive order to suspend the state’s death penalty. This particular gubernatorial imposed moratorium will postpone the punishment of more than 700 convicted felons on death row, which is the largest death row population nationwide.
As a result of this executive order, the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County will immediately close and California’s lethal injection protocol will be withdrawn. However, Newsom’s executive order will not legally change any current criminal conviction or sentence, or lead to the official release of any prison inmates currently on death row.
This is not the first time the country’s largest state by population has dealt with this issue. In 2012 and 2016, a majority of California voters rejected ballot measures that would have abolished the death penalty by ballot initiative. However, in 2016, Proposition 66, which would expedite or fasten death penalty executions by shortening the appeals process in the legal system, passed. The state’s Supreme Court rejected portions of Prop 66, but allowed most of it intact.
Twenty states, Washington, D.C., and the Caribbean Territory of Puerto Rico have either abolished capital punishment or never had capital punishment. California has joined three other states such as Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Colorado that have suspended capital punishment through executive order. Thirty states, several territories, the U.S. federal government, and the U.S. military continue to use the death penalty.
More than 50 countries globally have either kept the death penalty or used capital punishment such as China, India, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Belarus, and North Korea. One hundred and forty-two countries worldwide have abolished the death penalty in law and or practice including the majority of continental Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, Russia, and South Africa.
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