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March 13, 2019

New California Gov to order moratorium on executions in his state

As reported in this local piece, headlined "Gov. Gavin Newsom to stop death penalty in California, giving reprieves to 737 death row inmates," there is big death penalty news from the Golden State.  Here are the details:

Gov. Gavin Newsom is putting a moratorium on the death penalty in California, sparing the lives of more than 700 death-row inmates.  Newsom plans to sign an executive order Wednesday morning granting reprieves to all 737 Californians awaiting executions – a quarter of the country’s death row inmates.

His action comes three years after California voters rejected an initiative to end the death penalty, instead passing a measure to speed up executions.

Newsom says the death penalty system has discriminated against mentally ill defendants and people of color. It has not made the state safer and has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars, according to prepared remarks Newsom plans to deliver Wednesday morning when he signs the order.

“Our death penalty system has been – by any measure — a failure,” Newsom plans to say. “The intentional killing of another person is wrong. And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual.”

California has not executed anyone in more than a decade because of legal challenges to the state’s execution protocol. But executions for more than 20 inmates who have exhausted their appeals could have resumed if those challenges were cleared up, and Newsom has said he worried that it could happen soon.

Newsom has been a longtime opponent of the death penalty. While campaigning for a measure to repeal the death penalty in 2016, he told The Modesto Bee editorial board he would “be accountable to the will of the voters,” if he were elected governor. “I would not get my personal opinions in the way of the public’s right to make a determination of where they want to take us” on the death penalty, he said.

The moratorium will be in place for the duration of Newsom’s time in office, the governor’s office said. After that, a future governor could decide to resume executions.

California is one of 31 states with capital punishment.  In recent years, other states have abolished the death penalty and several other governors have placed moratoriums on executions. The California Constitution gives the governor power to grant reprieves to inmates, providing he reports his reasoning to the Legislature.

But Newsom’s action will anger death penalty proponents. “The voters of the State of California support the death penalty.  That is powerfully demonstrated by their approval of Proposition 66 in 2016 to ensure the death penalty is implemented, and their rejection of measures to end the death penalty in 2016 and 2006, said Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, in a statement late Tuesday.  “Governor Newsom, who supported the failed initiative to end the death penalty in 2006, is usurping the express will of California voters and substituting his personal preferences via this hasty and ill-considered moratorium on the death penalty.”

Preventing executions through a blanket action is an abuse of the governor’s power, death-penalty supporter Kent Scheidegger told The Bee in an interview earlier this month. The governor’s clemency powers are designed to correct individual cases of injustice, said Scheidegger, legal director for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.  “It’s not supposed to be a weapon for blocking the enforcement of the law that the people have passed just because the governor disagrees with it,” Scheidegger said.

In addition to the moratorium, Newsom’s order will also withdraw California’s legal injection protocol and close the execution chamber at San Quentin, where all death row inmates are imprisoned.  Those on death row will remain in prison under the order.

I suspect this moratorium order may be challenged in court, but I doubt there is functionally much that can be done to undo this moratorium given that there has been de facto moratorium in place for more than a decade already.

UPDATE: Over at California Correctional Crisis, Hadar Aviram has this lengthy posting about the moratorium and its implications under the title "Moratorium!!! What Does It Mean?"

ANOTHER UPDATE: This press release from Governor Newsom's office provide a link to this official executive order which orders, inter alia, the "executive moratorium ... in the forms of a reprieve for all people sentenced to death in California."  And I have now seen that Prez Trump had this tweet about this development this morning: "Defying voters, the Governor of California will halt all death penalty executions of 737 stone cold killers. Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!" 

March 13, 2019 at 09:47 AM | Permalink


The moratorium is based on the governor's constitutional power to grant reprieves, which has no limitations. Even the bloodthirsty Kent Schrodinger has conceded that there is no way to challenge that power. It sounds like he may challenge the withdrawal of the lethal injection protocol, but a more pointless piece of litigation is difficult to imagine.

"Reprieves, the governor does have the power to do that. That doesn't make it the right thing to do," Scheidegger said. "At this time I don't see a legal challenge to the reprieve." However, he said prohibiting corrections officials from preparing to carry out executions "is patently illegal" under the 2016 ballot measure.


Posted by: fuzzyone | Mar 13, 2019 11:51:36 AM

I stopped by to observe Bill Otis, Kent Scheidegger (and other promoters of premeditated killing) pull their hair out and scream. Should be amusing.

Years ago I argued here that DNA and the various Innocence Projects would be the end of the DP. Way back in in the 1930's Edwin M. Borchard pointed out the flaws in the criminal justice system that led to wrongful convictions.

Convicting the Innocent: Errors of Criminal Justice

Finally, the powers that be are listening.

Gov. Newsom Signs Moratorium on Executions (giving his reasoning.)

Posted by: George | Mar 13, 2019 2:41:49 PM

In the governors race, Newsom promised he would not do this.

Sadly, this is the dishonesty Ca has to deal with.

I doubt anyone was surprised by this betrayal.

Next election cycle he will promise not to commute all cases to life then, thereafter will do so.

Honor means nothing to these folks.

Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Mar 14, 2019 8:49:06 AM


Possibly, we may have proof of 0.4% actual innocents being discovered and released on death row, for all post Gregg, 1976, cases - the modern death penalty.

So far, that means, a 99.6% accuracy rate in actually guilty convictions, for death row.

It is doubtful you could find a more accurate sanction.

The last known and, possibly, proven execution of innocents were two brothers, in 1913.

Since 1973,

some 16,000 innocents have been murdered by those known murderers that we have allowed to murder again = recidivist murderers.

some 500,000 innocents have been murdered by those known criminals that we have allowed to harm again - recidivist criminals.

Where is the innocents at risk problem?

Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Mar 14, 2019 9:16:35 AM

Dudley Sharp, your arguments are almost identical the the ones Bill Otis made. Not that that matters much.

Let's say you are right (without evidence of being so) how many people are 0.4% of the death row population? My bet is that it wouldn't be as favorable to your side to say, for example, it is only 100 people.

The point is, the criminal justice system is not as perfect as Jutice Scalia claimed.

Report: Wrongful convictions have stolen at least 20,000 years from innocent defendants

Granted, your crime victims may have suffered for more years, but that doesn't make 20,000 years so trivial it should be ignored. But the greater flaw in your argument is that the death penalty deters. So why your alarming stats (without evidence, again) if the dp is effective? There is now more evidence of the the brutalization effect that explains how the dp actually INCREASES violence. How can someone claim to be for victim's rights while supporting a system that, by your own stats, increases the tragedy for victims? And you claim no one was wrongfully executed since 1913? On what do you base the claim? Do the wrongfully executed get new trials or any hearing at all?

There are those who think many may have been wrongfully executed: Executed But Possibly Innocent. How could it be proved?

Posted by: George | Mar 19, 2019 1:40:17 AM

California Gov. Newsom: Dead Wrong on All Death Penalty Points

Candidate Newsom said he respected the citizens choice in supporting executions and speeding up appeals. He lied and his deceptions continue.

Newsom's, alleged, concerns over the death penalty (bold):

Bias by race:

Nationally, white murderers are twice as likely to be executed, as are black murderers (1) and have an execution rate 41% higher than black death row inmates (2).

From 1980-2008, for the White–Black comparisons, the Black level is 12.7 times greater than the White level for homicide, 15.6 times greater for robbery, 6.7 times greater for rape (3).

Robbery and rape murders are the most common death penalty crimes (4).

There is no race of the defendant nor race of the victim bias effect within capital murders (5).

Bias against the poor

We execute 0.2% of our murderers (6). It is, solely, dependent upon one's definitions of poor and rich, as to whether the rich, a vast minority of capital murderers, are executed at rates higher or lower than the poor, the vast majority of capital murderers.

We, the people, spared no expense defending (poor) Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (7), executed four years after sentencing (8).

Too expensive

The two recent Ca studies for death penalty vs life costs are a sham (9).

Both studies included $15,000/yr for capital murder lifers, when the "average" cell cost was $45,000/yr (10) (Now $80,000/yr, 2017-2018 (10a)), with high security cells up to $174,000/yr. (11), or about $5 million, for 50 years, at $100,000/yr/inmate, for capital murder lifers, WHICH DOES NOT INCLUDE pre trial, trial, nor appeals costs, nor specific geriatric care, being 3-9 times average cell cost (12), adding millions more to the total, resulting in life being more expensive than the death penalty, all left out of those "studies".

Repeal of the death penalty ends life with out parole pleas, leaving only life with parole.

Innocents at risk

Newsom parrots that 1 out of 25 death row inmates are innocent. Nonsense.

The current claim by death penalty opponents (DPO) is that 164 (1.8%) (13) were "exonerated", wherein DPO thought it a good idea to redefine both "innocent" and "exonerated", as redefining lie as truth, and then stuck a bunch of cases into those "revised" definitions (13,14,15).

NY Times reported "innocent" claims to be 71% false (16). Today, that being 116 false claims of the 164 claimed "exonerated", or 48 (0.6%) proven innocent, all of whom have been released (16). The false claims of innocence range from 71-83% (17) .

That deception is the foundation of the 1 out of 25 "study" (18).

We might have proof that innocents were executed as recently as 1913 - two brothers from South Carolina (19). Tragic.

The major innocents problem, nationally, as within California, is this:

Since 1973:

21,000 innocents have been murdered by those KNOWN murderers that we have allowed to murder, again - recidivist murderers (20);

440,000 innocents have been murdered by those KNOWN criminals that we have allowed to harm, again - recidivist criminals (20).

Living murderers harm and murder, again. Executed ones do not.

Where are the innocents at risk?

No deterrence

The deterrent effect of severe sanctions and severe negative incentives has never been negated and cannot be. The evidence that some are deterred is overwhelming (21). The evidence that none are deterred is non existent (21).

Absent the death penalty/executions, we risk sacrificing more innocent lives. With the death penalty/executions, we "risk" saving more innocent lives.

Pick your risk.

Nobel Prize Laureate Gary Becker: “the evidence of a variety of types — not simply the quantitative evidence — has been enough to convince me that capital punishment does deter and is worth using for the worst sorts of offenses.” (NY Times, 11/18/07)

"(Becker) is the most important social scientist in the past 50 years The NY Times, 5/5/14

Bias against the mentally ill

Newsom is, fully, aware that competency is considered pre trial, trial and within appeals, to determine if the defendant/convicted party is, legally, competent to be held responsible for their crimes.


Poll support is 70-80%, with actual cases (22). For example, ask: Do you support a death sentence in cases wherein children have been raped/tortured/murdered? With answer options of -- sometimes -- always -- never.

Execution support was 81% for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, with near equal support over all demographics. 58% of those who OPPOSE execution, supported McVeigh's execution (23) - the "sometimes" component is huge.


Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Mar 23, 2019 4:48:05 AM


Death penalty problems? Nope. Management problems

Human management is irresponsible, not the death penalty. Newsom is oblivious.

Responsible management exists in Virginia. Since 1976, Virginia has executed 112 murderers, within 7 years of FULL appeals, on average (24).

Had California management been responsible, as Virginia, there would, now, be 47 murderers on death row, not 737 (25).

Newsom has shown his contempt for truth, justice, jurors, citizens, innocent rape/torture/murder victims and their survivors.

Murderers and their advocates are jubilant.

1) 56% of those executed are white, 34% black (a). The Black level is 12.7 times greater than the White level for homicide (fn 3).

(a) although a very untrusted anti death penalty site, this stat is correct - DPIC, Facts About The Death Penalty, March 12, 2019, https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/FactSheet.pdf

NOTE: 2016 - 20 prisoners were executed, 16 white, 2 Hispanic, 2 black. 70 prisoners released from under sentence of death by means other than execution, p 2, Highlights, BJS Capital Punishment Report, 2016, April, 2018,

2) From 1977-2012, white death row murderers have been executed at a rate 41% higher than are black death row murderers, 19.3% vs 13.7%, respectively. ( Table 12, Executions and other dispositions of inmates sentenced to death, by race and Hispanic origin, 1977–2012, Capital Punishment 2012, Bureau of Justice Statistics, last edited 11/3/14)

3) REASSESSING TRENDS IN BLACK VIOLENT CRIME, 1980.2008: SORTING OUT THE "HISPANIC EFFECT" IN UNIFORM CRIME REPORTS ARRESTS, NATIONAL CRIME VICTIMIZATION SURVEY OFFENDER ESTIMATES, AND U.S. PRISONER COUNTS, See pages 208-209, FN 5, DARRELL STEFFENSMEIER, BEN FELDMEYER, CASEY T. HARRIS, JEFFERY T. ULMER, Criminology, Volume 49, Issue 1, Article first published online: 24 FEB 2011 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-9125.2010.00222.x/pdf

4) You have to go through each "Offender Information" link, Death Row Information, Offenders on Death Row, Texas Department of Criminal Justice,

5) paragraphs 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8

6) Using average of 18,000 murders per year (1973-2018), with 1493 executions, or 0.18%, see FBI data at Disaster Center, http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm

7) McVeigh defense cost U.S. $15 million,Chicago Tribune, 10/28/2001

8) 1997-2001

9) Death Penalty Costs: California

10) ibid

10a) Figure 1, (Prisons plus Administration), Total Expenditures for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 2017-2018 Proposed, The 2017-2018 Budget, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, March 1, 2017,

also see

$10,000-$40,000/yr/inmate (2012), additional, ONLY for geriatric prisoner medical care from
Medical Expenditures for Older Inmates, IV. Aging Bodies, Soaring Costs, Old Behaind Bars, Human Rights Watch, 1/27/12, https://www.hrw.org/report/2012/01/27/old-behind-bars/aging-prison-population-united-states#b87216

11) ibid, 9

12) Older prisoners (2005 and 2011) cost 3-9 times more than younger prisoners, from: Human Rights Watch. Old Behind Bars: The Aging Prison Population in the United States.Human Rights Watch; Jan 27, 2012 & American Civil Liberties Union. At America's Expense: The Mass Incarceration of the Elderly. American Civil Liberties Union; New York, NY: Jun, 2012

13) The Innocence List, DPIC, as of November, 2018,

14) ibid, The modern era of death penalty cases did not begin until after Gregg v Georgia, 1976, however, based upon the numbers, the end of 1978, is when we finally resolved all the Gregg issues, in the modern era, which means, we should omit 34 of those cases (1963-1978), bringing the number down to 130, minus the 71%, or 38 innocents - see

TABLE 16 Prisoners sentenced to death and the outcome of the sentence, by year of sentencing, 1973–2013, Capital Punishment, 2013, Statistical Tables, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2014,

15) see sections 3 and 4
The Innocent Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy


The "Innocent", the "Exonerated" and Death Row:
An Open Fraud in the Death Penalty Debate: How Death Penalty Opponents Lie

16) Liptak: "To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row," (NY Times, 1/23/05), At the time of the article, there were 119 listed on the Innocence List (fn 13) 35 innocent, as per average by Liptak, means a 71% error rate with the 119. 'The Death of Innocents': A Reasonable Doubt, by Adam Liptak, NY Times, JAN. 23, 2005

17) ibid, fn 15

18) The 4.1% "Innocent" on Death Row: More Nonsense

19) South Carolina pardons black brothers convicted of 1913 killing, By Alex Spilliu, The Telegraph, 18 Oct 2009, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/6366628/South-Carolina-pardons-black-brothers-convicted-of-1913-killing.html

20) Section 4 b and d

The Death Penalty: Saving More Innocent Lives

21) OF COURSE THE DEATH PENALTY DETERS: A review of the debate
99.7% of murderers tell us "Give me life, not execution"

22) 86% Death Penalty Support: Highest Ever - April 2013
World Support Remains High
95% of Murder Victim's Family Members Support Death Penalty

23) Vast Majority of Americans Think McVeigh Should Be Executed, May 2, 2001,

24) Path to execution swifter, more certain in Va. , FRANK GREEN, Richmond Post-Dispatch, December 4, 2011 Page: A1 Section: News Edition: Final

25) See Virginia and California

With executions (72%) and other removals (23.4%), Virginia has cleared 95.4% of their death row cases, which would have resulted in California, now, having 47 inmates on their death row, not 737. Virginia has has 2 more executions, since this report.

Table 17, page 20, Capital Punishment, 2013, Statistical Tables, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2014, (THE LAST YEAR OF THAT DATA SET)

Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Mar 23, 2019 4:49:03 AM


O.4% is about 40 of those sent to death row who may have proof of innocence, all of whom were released.

The 20,000 years is about 9 years per "exoneree" - a long time.

If you read about the low percentage of the "exonerees" that have been compensated, it would be interesting to know how many of those were denied because of their evidence of guilt or the absence of evidence for innocence.

I suspect NRE has that data, but it not releasing it.

This in the context that I just reviewed my first case on a death row inmate released based upon DNA exoneration - McCartey, who is identified by both NRE and IP as exonerated by DNA.

What they both leave out and must know - I found it in about 1 minute - is that McCarty has substantial evidence of guilt and such was enough to deny him compensation after a court reviewed the case.

This was the very first case I chose to review.

What are the chances that I magically just happened to pick a case with evidence of guilt?

Statistically, I would say it most probable there are many more and both NRE and IP know of them and are, intentionally, not sharing that info, as with the McCarty case.

Posted by: Dudley Sharp | May 12, 2019 7:29:47 AM

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