California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday will take executive action to suspend the death penalty in the state. Newsom is expected to announce the move at a news conference in the morning.
Multiple sources say that Newsom will grant reprieves to all 737 inmates on death row in the state. He reportedly is planning to withdraw the lethal injection regulations that have been the source of court battle started by opponents of the death penalty. It is also expected that he will close the new execution chamber at San Quentin Prison which has not been used since being built.
Newsom will declare that the death penalty is inconsistent with the state's values.
He told the Associated Press, "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 said in prepared remarks. "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."
KFBK spoke with Sharon Sellitto on Tuesday after she received a call from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation letting her know in advance of Governor Newsom's plan. Sellitto's brother, Paul Cosner, was a victim of Charles Ng and Leonard Lake who were put on California's death row in 1999.
“All those victims don’t mean anything to the Governor of California,” said Sellitto. “The only people that matter are the perpetrators. That isn’t right.”
Sellitto no longer lives in California.
“It broke my heart,” she continued. “I said, ‘I thought I’d never say these words but I’m glad my mother has died and didn’t have to hear that.’”
Tuesday, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) issued a written statement on Newsom’s planned action.
“I applaud Governor Newsom for his courageous decision to a stop to all executions in California. The death penalty doesn’t make our communities safer, is immoral, and has huge racial disparities. It is time to end capital punishment in our state.”
Governor Newsom cannot change the death penalty law in the state. That would require voters to repeal a 1978 measure. However, his office notes that he does have the executive power to issue reprieves to death row inmates.
KFBK will carry Newsom's new conference live at 10:00 a.m. (PDT) on Wednesday.