California governor to freeze death penalty, says it’s ‘fundamentally immoral’ and biased

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SAN FRANCISCO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to announce Wednesday an executive order that immediately establishes a moratorium on killing convicts on death row, USA TODAY learned Tuesday night.

California has 737 people on death row, about a quarter of the nation’s death row population and by far the most of any state. Some 24 of them have been convicted of murder and have exhausted their appeals, meaning they could be scheduled to die under Newsom’s governorship.

“The intentional killing of another person is wrong,” Newsom, 51, is slated to say during the signing of the executive order. “And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual.”

The order grants an immediate reprieve for all individuals sentenced to death in the state. It draws its power from a governor’s ability to commute death sentences. Typically, such commutations are done individually, but in this case the state’s chief executive is establishing a blanket moratorium.

Governors in Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania have established similar moratoriums leveraging the same executive powers.

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