Though capital punishment hasn't violated the law in California, the state hasn't executed any prisoner since January 2006.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California has poured cold water on Donald Trump's claim that he called the president "one of the smartest people I've ever met" in a private telephone call.
The death penalty spat was the latest between Newsom and Trump, who recently clashed over California wasting federal money on a high-speed rail project. That said, California now joins three other states - Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania - where governors have issued moratoriums on executions. The state's lethal injection protocol was getting closer to being finalized and two dozen death row inmates had exhausted their appeals.
California Governor Gavin Newsom
Human Rights Watch said that, with the governor's decision, California continues a trend in the U.S. of moving away from putting people to death.
"The intentional killing of another person is wrong and as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual", he said in prepared remarks. Voters also defeated a 2012 measure to end the death penalty.
Since 1973, five inmates in California have been executed before being exonerated of their crimes later on.
Newsom also withdrew the lethal injection regulations that death penalty opponents already have tied up in courts and moved to shutter the new execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison that has never been used.
California announces moratorium on death penalty, halting more than 700 executions
California has not executed anyone in more than a decade because of legal challenges to the state's execution protocol. There are now 737 people on death row in California - more than in any other state, the governor's office said.
An execution chamber in a file photo.
Since becoming governor, Newsom has been meeting with the families of victims, as well as law enforcement officials, while consulting with his legal team about what action to take. He's not commuting any death sentences, which in many cases would require agreement from the state Supreme Court.
Gavin Newsom is expected to sign an executive order on the death penalty on Wednesday morning.
California has not executed anyone in more than a decade because of legal challenges to the state's execution protocol.
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The 737 people on death row in California are the most of any state in America, the governor's office said.
Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, called Newsom's actions "an abuse of power". 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.
Since California's last execution, its death row population has grown to house one of every four condemned inmates in the US.
In 1998, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gray Davis also ran as a supporter of capital punishment, easily crushing Republican Attorney General Dan Lungren in the general election. "The death penalty will end in the United States".
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"A 2,000-mile wall is a monument to stupidity, not just vanity, to stupidity", Newsom said.