Despite Moratorium, California Prosecutors Pursue Death-Penalty Sentences

In this handout photo provided by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, staff members dismantle the death row lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison on March 13, 2019 in San Quentin, California.
Photo credit California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via Getty Images
By KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

The number of death penalty convictions is growing across California, even though Gov. Gavin Newsom recently placed a moratorium on executions.

When Newsom halted executions of inmates currently on death row, and ordered San Quentin’s execution chambers closed in March, he said it would save the state money.

Yet death penalty cases continue to rack up millions in taxpayer costs, because prosecutors continue pursuing them, according to John Dunham with the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-partisan organization.

“That raises significant questions about whether it’s possible to give fair trials to people who are being capitally charged,” Dunham said. “And it raises questions about whether it’s a good use of taxpayer money to try to pursue new death sentences during a period when the juries clearly understand nothing is going to happen.”

District attorneys across the state continue to pursue death penalty convictions because they say it remains the law, no matter the governor’s moratorium.

“There have been five counties in the southern part of the state that have imposed more death sentences than almost any other counties in the entire country,” Dunham said. “And that creates enormous costs.”