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Stopping the Machinery of Death


Gov. Gavin Newsom, arguing that the death penalty overwhelmingly discriminates against racial minorities and the poor, will sign an order Wednesday placing a moratorium on executions in California, according to his office. The move serves as an immediate reprieve for hundreds of prisoners currently housed on the nation’s largest Death Row.

Newsom’s executive order, to be signed Wednesday morning, withdraws California’s lethal injection protocol and immediately mandates the closure of the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison, in Marin County. While the governor’s order will be a reprieve for 737 prisoners sentenced to death — including 24 who have exhausted all legal appeals — Newsom’s office stressed that his order would not provide for the release of any inmates or alter their convictions or sentences.

California has the largest number of condemned prisoners in the nation, representing one out of every four Death Row inmates in the United States.

“I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people,’’ Newsom, a Democrat, said in a statement released late Tuesday. “In short, the death penalty is inconsistent with our bedrock values and strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Californian.”

California’s huge death row, from which a few people are arbitrarily selected for execution, is a human rights disaster, and good for Newsom for ending it.

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