Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his decision to suspend capital punishment in California Wednesday, saying the system has been a failure and granting a reprieve for the 737 people currently on Death Row.
State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, praised Newsom’s decision and said she “deeply respected” the governor’s moral courage in making the decision.
“Our criminal justice system is based on the bedrock principle that no person should ever be wrongfully convicted,” she wrote. “And yet such wrongful convictions happen. Just last year, Vicente Benavides Figueroa was released from California’s Death Row after being behind bars for 25 years for a crime he did not commit. Unfortunately, he was not alone. Since 1976, more than 160 Death Row inmates nationwide, including five in California, have been exonerated.”
Detractors have long argued that the death penalty undermines the constitutional right to equal protection under the law because it can put the life of an innocent person at risk. Newsom said that possibility was a burden he could not live with.
Newsom said the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison will be dismantled. Under the terms of his moratorium, no inmate currently held on Death Row will be released and no sentence or conviction will be altered.