Trump 'not thrilled' with California's death penalty moratorium

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

President Trump on Wednesday criticized California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plans to place a moratorium on executions in the state.

“Defying voters, the Governor of California will halt all death penalty executions of 737 stone cold killers,” Trump tweeted. “Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!”

Newsom is expected to sign an executive order Wednesday halting lethal injection executions for all 737 inmates on California’s death row.

“The intentional killing of another person is wrong, and as governor I will not oversee the execution of any individual,” Newsom is expected to say, according to prepared remarks published by the Associated Press.

The governor's prepared remarks call the death penalty “a failure” that “has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation.”

More than six in 10 condemned California inmates are minorities. The last execution in California was in 2006, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor.

In 2016, voters narrowly approved a ballot measure to speed up executions, but there are no imminent executions scheduled in the Golden State.

Newsom is not the first governor to place a moratorium on executions. Republican Illinois Gov. George Ryan was the first to do so, in 2000. Governors in Pennsylvania, Washington and Oregon followed suit.

President Trump talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Friday. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Trump has a history of offering his opinion when it comes to the death penalty.

In 1989, after black and Latino teenagers known as the Central Park Five were accused of the brutal rape and assault of a female jogger in New York City, Trump took out a full-page ad in four of New York City’s major newspapers calling for the return of the death penalty.

Their convictions were vacated in 2002 after DNA evidence and the confession of a convicted rapist and murderer exonerated them. (Despite that evidence, Trump said in 2016 that he remains convinced of their guilt.)

And as president, Trump has called for the death penalty for nonviolent criminals, such as drug dealers.

Last year, while unveiling a plan to combat the opioid epidemic, Trump ordered the Justice Department to enact the death penalty for drug traffickers.

“[They] kill so many thousands of our citizens every year,” Trump said. “That’s why my Department of Justice will be seeking so many tougher penalties than we’ve ever had, and we’ll be focusing on the penalties that I talked about previously for big pushers, the ones that are killing so many people, and that penalty is going to be the death penalty.”

“Other countries don’t play games,” he added. “But the ultimate penalty has to be the death penalty.”

Indeed, Trump has often spoken fondly of other countries that have harsh penalties for drug dealers.

Last month, when Trump declared a national emergency to secure funding for his long-promised border wall, he recalled a recent conversation he had with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“When I asked President Xi, I said, ‘You have a drug problem?’ ‘No, no, no.’ I said, ‘You have 1.4 billion people; what do you mean you have no drug problem?’ ‘No, we don’t have a drug problem.’ I said, ‘Why?’ ‘Death penalty,’” Trump said, imitating someone who speaks broken English. “‘We give death penalty to people who sell drugs. End of problem.’”

“Their criminal list — a drug dealer gets a thing called the death penalty,” Trump said about China. “Our criminal list, a drug dealer gets a thing called ‘How about a fine?’”

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