Advocate says California move is part of 'growing momentum' against death penalty

Capital punishment expert Robert Dunham said Monday that California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) decision to suspend the death penalty marks a growing trend in states across the country.

Dunham, executive director of Death Penalty Information Center, said even though there has been a long-term decline in the use of capital punishment in the U.S. both in terms of perception and policy, he said the trend is also picking up steam in states like Colorado and Oregon.

“I think it’s part of this momentum that we’re seeing, especially in the Western United States, away from the death penalty,” Dunham told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on “Rising.”

“Colorado looks like it’s moving to abolish, the Washington Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional last year and the legislature is trying to take it off of the books this year,” he continued.

The advocate added that Oregon legislators are also pushing for a bill that would redefine aggravated murder crimes under state law so it would only apply to acts of terrorism in which multiple victims were killed. The bill, which was introduced by state Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D), is currently under committee review.

Dunham’s comments come after Newsom last week to placed a moratorium on executions for California death row inmates, arguing the policy overwhelmingly discriminated against racial minorities and the poor. California has not executed an inmate since 2006.

Under Newsom’s latest executive order, individuals will be spared from executions but will remain incarcerated.

The governor’s action affects more than 700 inmates on death row. The state’s death row population, meanwhile, continues to grow, boasting the largest number of inmates in the nation.

However, not everyone is on board with Newsom's decision. President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE, who has long feuded with Newsom over various issues in the state, voiced opposition to the death penalty moratorium, saying he was "not thrilled" with the news. 

Dunham added that Newsom’s moratorium will nevertheless last for at least as long as he is governor and predicted that there will be some movement in the state toward commuting for some of those on death row. 

“I think the legislature will have a chance to sit back and see, ‘Do we want to provide the funding that is necessary to have a system that works?’ ” he said, referring to the death penalty costs. “Or what are we going to do with the $5 billion dollars that the system has cost California so far.” 

—Tess Bonn