SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — As the fallout continues after Governor Gavin Newsom decided to halt the death penalty, the reasons behind the decision are coming to light.
One of those reasons is the innocent people on death row. Most people argue that even one wrongful death row conviction is too many, but there have been at least five people have been exonerated in California since the 1980s.
The most recent exoneration was last year. In all cases, their time on death row has ranged from five to 25 years, and all are minorities.
Newsom argued Wednesday that the death penalty is applied disproportionality to people of color and that many are likely innocent.
“There was a National Science Academy Report that estimated one in every 25 people on death row is innocent. If that’s the case, that means if we move forward executing 737 people in California. We will have executed more than 30 people that are innocent,” Newsom said.
The author of the report said they looked at all death penalty sentences between 1973 and 2004 and found 4.1 percent of all death row inmates would be exonerated if they remained on death row indefinitely.
However, he noted that in reality, many defendants are removed from death row and re-sentenced to life in prison, where the appeal process stalls.
So, even if the inmates are innocent, they are never fully exonerated. The actual rate of exoneration is 1.6 percent.
Courts have not exonerated anyone posthumously recently either because they do not consider claims of innocence after a defendant is dead. Instead, defense attorneys move on to clients whose lives can still be saved.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there are as many as 15 cases nationwide with strong evidence that the person executed may have actually been innocent.
While Californians voted to keep the death penalty and speed up executions, lawmakers at the capitol now want to decide.
Assemblymember Marc Levine introduced an amendment Thursday to ban the death penalty. The amendment requires a two-thirds vote to pass.