North Coast State Sen. Mike McGuire issued a statement this morning applauding Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to halt state executions in California and shutter the lethal injection chamber at San Quentin State Prison for his tenure in office.
Newsom’s decision offers an immediate — if temporary — reprieve to the state’s 737 death row inmates, including two from Humboldt County, and has drawn some criticism, including a tweet from President Donald Trump who indicated he’s “not thrilled” with Newsom’s plan. McGuire, meanwhile, commended Newsom’s moratorium
“The death penalty is an archaic and unjust system, disproportionately condemning people of color and those with disabilities,” McGuire said in a statement. “There is absolutely no evidence that the death penalty makes Californians safer, and it is both incredibly costly and burdensome. This is the right step to take, while the Legislature and administration work together to make our criminal justice system stronger and more just.”
Newsom’s move comes after California voters have twice rejected ballot measures aiming to repeal the death penalty — first in 2012 then in 2016 — though Humboldt County voters narrowly supported both repeal efforts.
Currently, Humboldt County has two condemned inmates awaiting execution: Curtis Floyd Price and Jackie Hovarter. Price was convicted in 1986 for the murders of Elizabeth Ann Hickey and Richard Barnes, a witness who testified against the Aryan Brotherhood, of which Price was a member. Hovarter was convicted in 1990 for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a teenage girl, Danna Walsh.
California has not put an inmate to death since 2006 due to a series of legal challenges to its method of lethal injection, which have sent the state scrambling for a constitutionally defensible method of execution. Newsom’s announcement today halts those efforts, at least so long as he’s in office. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times
, California has executed 13 inmates since 1976, when a U.S. Supreme Court decision reinstated capital punishment nationwide. During that same period, 79 death row inmates have died of natural causes and another 26 have committed suicide.
Under Newsom’s moratorium, no inmates will be released from custody and no sentences or convictions will be altered. The order simply halts the carrying out of death sentences in California for the time being.
While campaigning for office in 2014, Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming indicated
she supported capital punishment, albeit in very limited cases, saying it is a “most-extraordinary punishment” and noting that in her decades as a prosecutor, she never once felt it was appropriate in a case she was handling. Since taking office, she has declined to pursue the death penalty in at least two eligible cases.
Editor's note: This post was updated from a previous version to correct an error regarding the location of California's lethal injection chamber. The
Journal regrets the error.