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Death row axed in California as governor halts state executions

Reprieve: Inmate is led out of his cell on death row at San Quentin jail PICTURE: AP

MORE than 735 death-row prisoners have been given a reprieve and had their executions halted in California.

Declaring the death penalty ‘a failure’, the US state’s governor Gavin Newsom withdrew lethal injection regulations and mothballed a new — and never-used — execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison, near San Francisco.

‘The intentional killing of another person is wrong and, as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual,’ he said.

President Donald Trump criticised the moratorium in a tweet, branding those on death row as ‘stone cold killers’. He added: ‘Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!’

But Mr Newsom (above) said the death penalty ‘has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation’. Innocent people have also been wrongly convicted and sometimes put to death, he added.

California has not executed anyone since 2006. Since then, its death row population has grown to house one of every four condemned inmates in the US.

Alison Parker, US managing director of Human Rights Watch, praised Mr Newsom’s ‘great courage and leadership’ and urged other states to follow California’s lead.