California Governor Suspends Use Of Death Penalty, Gives Cop-Killers A Break
Sacramento, CA – The family of murdered Newman Police Corporal Ronil Singh will not see his killer put to death while California Governor Gavin Newsom is in office because the newly elected governor announced on Wednesday that he’s suspending the death penalty in the state.
California Governor Gavin Newsom will sign an executive moratorium that suspends executions in the state as long as he is governor, granting a reprieve to 737 prisoners currently on death row, NPR reported.
Newsom’s order will close the state’s execution chamber at San Quentin Prison, which hasn’t been used since January of 2006, but will not actually change the convictions or sentences of those who reside on death row, NPR reported.
Only voters can repeal the death penalty, but when they were given that options three years ago, they voted against it.
"Our death penalty system has been — by any measure — a failure," the governor said in a statement. "It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. But most of all, the death penalty is absolute, irreversible and irreparable in the event of a human error."
An administration source told NPR that Newsom’s executive order will also argue that the death penalty is inherently unfair and usually applied to people of color and people who have mental disabilities.
A court-ordered moratorium on executions in California has been in effect since February of 2006, after a federal judge ruled the state’s lethal injection protocol violated the U.S. constitution.
The state made an $853,000 renovation of San Quentin’s execution chamber in 2010 but the new facility has never been used.
A new execution protocol for the state was under review, but the governor’s executive order will withdraw it from consideration, NPR reported.
Voting records showed that most Californians do not want to do away with capital punishment.
Ballot measures that would have abolished the death penalty in California failed in 2012 and 2016, demonstrating that voters weren’t on the same page with anti-death penalty legislators.
In fact, a ballot measure to expedite executions and shorten the appeals process passed in 2016, NPR reported.
Although the California Supreme Court rejected part of Proposition 66, the majority of new law to speed up the death penalty process stayed intact.
President Donald Trump posted a tweet on Wednesday morning that pointed out the California governor was not carrying out the will of the voters.
Newsom is not on the cutting edge of the death penalty debate – 18 states and the District of Columbia have already abolished the death penalty, according to NPR.
Three other governors – in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado – have already enacted similar moratoriums on executions in their states.
NPR reported that Newsom’s moratorium is an indication of how California’s death penalty politics have changed, at least for Democrats.
Voters essentially recalled three state Supreme Court justices in 1986 over their opposition to the death penalty.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) ran for governor on a pro-death penalty platform in 1990, although she was defeated Republican Pete Wilson, according to NPR.
Former Democratic Governor Gray Davis ran a pro-capital punishment race in 1998 and won the state.
Jerry Brown, who appointed the Supreme Court justices that voters ousted, was elected again in 2006 after he promised to uphold the state’s death penalty despite his personal objections to it.
Now-U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) was only narrowly elected as the state’s attorney general in 2010 because of her vocal opposition to capital punishment, according to NPR.
The rapidly-changing politics surrounding the death penalty have not stopped prosecutors from seeking it.
The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office has charged Cpl. Singh’s murderer, Paulo Virgen Mendoza, with murder and a special circumstances enhancement that makes his case eligible for the death penalty, the Modesto Bee reported.
Mendoza, a citizen of Mexico who was in the United States illegally, is due back in court on April 8.
Prosecutors have not yet announced whether they will go for the death penalty in Mendoza’s case, according to the Modesto Bee.
The murder of Cpl. Singh, a native of Fiji, kicked off a massive, two-day manhunt.
Seven illegal immigrants have been charged with aiding Mendoza.