Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a moratorium on capital punishment on March 13, 2019.

Doug Sovern/ KCBS Radio

Death Penalty Opponents Not Fully Satisfied By Gov. Newsom's Moratorium

Doug Sovern
March 14, 2019 - 8:37 am

Opponents of capital punishment seized on Gov. Newsom's moratorium on execution and quickly announced they will again attempt to abolish the death penalty in California. 

Assemblyman Mark Levine (D-Marin County) announced he would introduce a constitutional amendment for 2020 to ban executions in the state, although previous propositions to do the same have been rejected by voters. 

"We've got Gov. Newsom who is a bright, leading force to repeal the death penalty," said Levine. "Californians do not have a vengeful bloodlust for the death penalty."

Newsom on Wednesday granted a reprieve to all 737 inmates in the country's largest death row, saying that none would be executed while he's governor.

Related: Newsom Declares Death Penalty Moratorium

For Levine's amendment to take effect, it must be passed by two-thirds majorities in the state assembly and senate, plus win approval from voters in a ballot measure. Similar efforts to repeal executions failed in 2012 and 2016. 

In an interview with KCBS Radio on Wednesday, Newsom said he would endorse Levine's amendment. 

"As someone who's attached myself to two of the previous efforts, I certainly would commit myself to the next effort," said Newsom. 

He also suggested taking additional "interim steps" that would chip away at the death penalty. 

"Number one, we can consider the next phase and that is the commutation phase," said Newsom.

A future governor could undo Newsom's reprieve and resume use of the death penalty. But if Newsom were to commute the inmates sentences to life imprisonment, they would be spared from capital punishment if the practice became reinstated at San Quentin State Prison. 

Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Antelope Valley) said the plan will backfire and galvanize supporters of capital punishment. 

"I think it's going to have the reverse impact," said Lackey. "I think it's going to fortify people who support a system of moral order."

California has not conducted an execution since the 2006 lethal injection of Clarence Ray Allen