Photo: Office Of The Governor Of California
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After Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to suspend the death penalty in California via executive order, the governor’s office shared a series of striking photos of the execution chamber at San Quentin — the only place in the state where executions are authorized to occur — being taken apart.
In one of the images, two men carry a chair used to restrain people during executions away from the chamber.
In another, the chair and other equipment from the chamber can be seen loaded on a truck, waiting to be taken away.
Others show signs indicating that the lethal injection chamber and gas chamber at San Quentin have been closed (Gas had not been used for an execution since the mid 1990s; Cyanide gas executions were ruled to be cruel and unusual by a San Francisco district court judge in 1994, a decision that was later upheld by the 9th Circuit).
Some found the photos to be a powerful symbol of progress, while others called the executive order and subsequent photos a political stunt.
“Grateful for Gov. Newsom’s bold and courageous stand! Death in response to death brings no healing or restoration to the families of victims or perpetrators, their families or communities,” wrote Bishop M. G. Carcaño of the United Methodist Church. “Let’s ask that the billions used for death row go to address root causes of violence.”
“Purely fluff since there hasn’t been one since 2006 & only 13 since 1972. Not to mention total disregard for the will of the people & the democratic process that has rejected attempts to overturn it twice in recent years by vote,” wrote Paul M. Benoit.
In 2012, voters rejected a ballot measure to abolish the death penalty 52 percent to 48 percent. In 2016, voters were again asked to consider the question, and rejected death penalty abolition by a similar margin, 53 percent to 47 percent. By a narrow margin of 51 percent to 49 percent, they also narrowly approved a proposition to streamline and expedite the death row appeals process, leading some experts to predict that a “wave” of executions might follow.
In a statement and remarks at a Tuesday press conference, Newsom called the death penalty a costly failure.
“I come here today to say this: The intentional killing of another person is wrong. And as Governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual,” Newsom said at a press conference.
The 737 inmates on California’s death row make it the largest in the nation, although a prisoner has not been executed in the state since 2006.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Striking-photos-show-San-Quentin-execution-13686251.php.