California has executed 13 people since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
But for prisoners convicted of two separate felonies, a population that includes more than half of the inmates on death row, the governor can not commute death sentences without the approval of the state Supreme Court. "Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!" As for Newsom, highlighting the issue could elevate his national profile, but could also ignite a firestorm of protest by crime victim advocates, President Trump and others.
Newsom's reason for the executive order?
In a statement announcing the executive order released by Newsom's office Tuesday, the Democratic governor argued that executing criminals is "inconsistent with our bedrock values", and he vowed that no prisoner would be put to death while he's in office. "Their system has had multiple innocence issues and is overrun with issues of racial and socioeconomic bias", said Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty in a statement. "We're poised to potentially oversee the execution of more prisoners than any other state in modern history", Newsom said in an interview with the LA Times before issuing the moratorium.
"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 plans to say Wednesday.
Newsom vows that during his time in office no prisoner will be executed in California, which has the largest total of condemned inmates among all states nationwide.
He's also withdrawing the lethal injection regulations that death penalty opponents have already tied up in court.
Murder Scott Peterson is amongst those on death row. Credit PA
California hasn't executed anyone since 2006, when Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor. "The intentional killing of another person is wrong".
Another key point of Newsom's argument is the wrongful conviction and subsequent overturning of inmates on death row.
California is one of 31 states with capital punishment.
In remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday, Newsom calls the death penalty a "failure" that has discriminated against the mentally ill, minorities and the poor.
Despite recent polling indicating that support for the death penalty is at its lowest level since the early 1970s, Newsom's order still bucks the will of most California residents.
In addition, he said, 25 of the state's death row inmates had exhausted all of their appeals, meaning they would be in line for execution. Since 2014, there have been 134 executions in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Nonetheless, Newsom's action is the latest indication of how California politics have changed around capital punishment. Twenty-six inmates condemned to death have committed suicide since the death penalty was reintroduced in 1978.