"Governor Newsom has demonstrated great courage and leadership in ending the cruel, costly, and unfair practice of executing prisoners", said Alison Parker, US managing director at Human Rights Watch. "The fact that so many states have abolished the death penalty-but California hasn't-has given people cover for this narrative that people are still supportive the death penalty".
Newsom does not have the power to overturn California's death penalty law, Kreitzberg said, but he can refuse to sign any death warrants and can commute death sentences to life imprisonment. "It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent".
The ACLU has said that executions disproportionately affect people of color and called for a suspension of the executions. Over 700 prisoners are now on death row in California, although the state has not performed any executions in over a decade because of legal challenges to the state's lethal injection procedure.
The last time an inmate was executed in California was in 2006 under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. No executions have been carried out since.
The California moratorium will become the fourth in the nation, following similar ones issued under Democratic governors in Oregon, Colorado, and California.
The governor is meant to sign the new order later on Wednesday.
There are now 737 people on death row in California, making it the state with the largest death row population in the USA -one in four people sentenced to the death penalty in the country are sentenced in California.
Responding to victims and rights groups who've spoken out against the move, Newsom said he hopes more can be done to support them without handing down death sentences. In 2016, as they narrowly rejected Proposition 62, voters narrowly passed a competing measure, Proposition 66, to expedite executions by shortening the appeals process.
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Seventy-nine condemned California inmates have died of natural causes since California reinstated capital punishment in 1978.
But Newsom's action angered death penalty proponents. "At this time I don't see a legal challenge to the reprieve".
Newsom has always been a vocal critic of capital punishment.
In 1986, voters essentially recalled California Chief Justice Rose Bird and two other associate Supreme Court justices appointed by former Gov.
"The death penalty has been an abject failure".
His office said more than six in 10 condemned California inmates are minorities, citing racial disparities in who is sentenced to die.
"There could very well be a backlash", said State Senator Nancy Skinner, a Democrat from Berkeley who supports Newsom's move. In other words, the politics seem to have changed. Aides to Harris, now a Democratic US senator and 2020 presidential candidate, have said she felt that she had a duty to uphold the death penalty as attorney general, even though she personally opposed it. Trump tweeted on Wednesday.
That seems to be a risk he's willing, if not happy, to take.