After signing an executive order to suspend the death penalty in his state, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said it was his conscience that drove his decision.
Speaking to “The View” on Friday, the recently elected Democrat appeared stunned by the more than 700 inmates on death row in California, a number that tops any other state in the country.
“I would be asked to sign off on one death every single day for two plus years ― one a week for 14 years ― knowing that at least four percent of those ― 30 plus people ― were innocent,” he said, pointing to the possibility for exonerations.
He added, “I can’t in good conscience do that.”
However, while Newsom’s moratorium on executions is a major policy shift, it likely won’t change much for the moment.
According to the Pew Research Center, California hasn’t carried out an execution since 2006. Furthermore, it’s only one of 11 states that haven’t carried out the death penalty in more than a decade.
Still, the NAACP reports the number of prisoners on California’s death row has risen significantly over the past 13 years by 14 percent ― that’s nearly 100 people. Since 2000, the number has increased by 28 percent.
That means that despite the now rare use of the death penalty in the state, jurors haven’t ceased sending inmates to death row.
Newsom called the policy “a failure,” in a statement released Wednesday when he first announced the moratorium.
“It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation,” he said. “It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. Most of all, the death penalty is absolute. It’s irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error.”