(SOUNDBITE) (English) CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM SAYING: "We are as I speak -- as I speak -- shutting down, removing the equipment in the death chamber at San Quentin." California Governor Gavin Newsom's executive order on Wednesday puts a moratorium on the death penalty and grants reprieves to all 737 inmates on death row -- it's a dramatic shift in how the state deals with its most heinous criminal felons.
But it may be largely symbolic in the short-term.
California's death row is crowded with inmates.
Many have been there for decades, and convicted murderers are still being sentenced to death in local courtrooms, though none have actually been put to death since 2006.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM SAYING: "Do we have the right to kill." Newsom says no.
He doesn't have the power to overturn California's death penalty law as governor, but he can refuse to sign any death warrants.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM SAYING: "We will reprieve those on death row.
We're not commuting the sentences.
People will still remain in custody.
We are no longer going to support the injection protocol." It's a protocol that's been attacked in a litany of legal challenges, that have effectively put the death penalty in California on hold for more than a decade.
Newsom says he's met stakeholders on all sides of the hot-button topic in making his decision.
A moratorium, he says, sends a message that we are - quote - "better than this."