More than 700 death row inmates have been given a temporary reprieve after the Governor of California moved to end the use of capital punishment in the state.
California has the largest number of prisoners on death row in the entirety of the United States, but Governor Gavin Newsom is to sign an executive order temporarily banning the death penalty from use in the state, providing a stay of execution for some 737 inmates.
The state currently houses around a quarter of the total of condemned inmates in the USA.
Despite this, no prisoners have been executed in California since Arnold Schwarzenegger's time in government, but Newsom said that he believes 'the intentional killing of another person is wrong', adding: "As governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual."
Californian Governor Gavin Newsom. Credit: PA
Since the last execution in 2006, court battles have been waged over methods by which prisoners can be executed. In signing his executive order, Mr Newsom has also withdrawn regulations on lethal injections that have been put through the courts already by death penalty opponents.
Newsom described capital punishment as 'a failure' and added that he believe it has 'discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can't afford expensive legal representation'.
The governor also pointed out that there have been occasions in which innocent people had been put to death after being wrongfully convicted.
Despite the temporary ban on capital punishment, no death row inmates are to be released as a result of this move.
Murder Scott Peterson is amongst those on death row. Credit: PA
Needless to say, Newsom's actions have been criticised by others within US law. Michele Hanisee, President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, said that Newsom is 'usurping the express will of California voters and substituting his personal preferences'.
Newsom's order is inevitably going to face challenges in court. However, his team believe that the power with which he made the executive order is given to him by the constitution of the state. He is also not changing any prisoner's conviction, nor is he offering an opportunity for early release to any of the condemned.
Governor Newsom further argued that the death penalty was a waste of money, failed to deter offenders, and was fundamentally flawed in that it is 'irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error'.
Newsom thinks the death penalty is expensive, and flawed. Credit: PA
Since 1973, five inmates in California have been executed before being exonerated of their crimes later on. Twenty-six inmates condemned to death have committed suicide since the death penalty was reintroduced in 1978.
Governor Newsom's office also stated that 25 inmates currently on death row could have possibly faced execution if the new lethal injection method had managed to pass the courts.
Featured Image Credit: PA