Governor Stops Executions in California

Governor Newsom signed an executive order putting a moratorium on the death penalty.

On March 13, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executing order establishing a moratorium on capital punishment. The order doesn’t end the death penalty in California—in fact, voters determined to keep the capital punishment system by a close margin in 2016—but it prevents any execution while Newsom is in office. At the point of the order, 737 people were on death row.

Newsom defended the decision by calling California’s capital punishment system “a failure,” stating that it doesn’t deter crime. His executive order included statements that:

  • death sentences are disproportionately given to minorities, people with mental disabilities, and people who can’t afford expensive representation
  • innocent people have been sentenced to death, and
  • California has spent $5 billion on the death penalty system since 1978.

The executive order cited an estimate by the National Academy of Sciences that as many as one of every 25 people receiving a death sentence in the U.S. is probably innocent. Said Newsom, “"If that's the case, that means if we move forward executing 737 people in California, we will have executed roughly 30 people that are innocent[.]"

The last execution in California was in 2006. Newsom’s decision puts the state in the company of Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Oregon as jurisdictions with death-penalty moratoria in effect.

Effective date: March 13, 2019