On March 13, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that will halt the execution of California’s 737 inmates currently on death row. Newsom calls the death penalty system a human error and discriminatory toward defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or who cannot afford legal representation.
California has the largest population of death row inmates in the United States.
We should be better than to stand idle by as an inhumane act of execution occurs, no matter what actions these inmates have committed, if for no reason than the documented accounts of our faulty and discriminatory criminal justice system.
Under the state death penalty, California has executed 13 people since its reinstatement in 1977, spending $5 billion on the system since then. The order will grant a reprieve to all current inmates on death row in California.
Newsom’s executive order will begin laying the foundation of new and potentially more promising solutions to a system that has perpetuated cycles of injustice.
In both 2012 and 2016, ballot measures have sought to make changes to the system. Proposition 62 in 2012 looked to repeal the death penalty in California and replace sentences to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Proposition 66 proposed changes in how death penalty appeal convictions are handled, with the intention of significantly shortening the time the total process takes. Both of these propositions were rejected.
Amid the various responses to Newsom’s actions toward a reprieve of the death penalty, President Donald Trump shared his dissatisfaction.
“Defying voters, the Governor of California will halt all death penalty executions of 737 stone cold killers. Friends and families of the always forgotten. VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!”
The death penalty is inhumane no matter how it is carried out. By putting the brakes, California has the ability to make tangible reform.
This is an important step in opening discussion on the matter and fixing at least this part of the state’s criminal justice system.