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Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., signed an executive order Wednesday placing an indefinite moratorium on capital punishment, saying it goes against Californians' "values".

With Newsom's move, California joins Colorado, Pennsylvania and OR as the fourth state to place a moratorium on the death penalty, though the length and reasoning for the moratoriums vary from state to state.

California voters have repeatedly rejected abolishing capital punishment but there is a court imposed moratorium on the death penalty. "Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I", Trump said on Twitter.

President Donald Trump alluded to California voters' support for the death penalty when he criticized Newsom on Wednesday morning.

California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom speaks after being elected governor of the state during an election night party in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 6, 2018.

"It's a very emotional place that I stand", Newsom told reporters after signing the order.

The moratorium on the death penalty will last as long as Newsom holds office. He said 164 death-row inmates have been exonerated in the last 45 years.

Other governors also have enacted moratoriums.

California Governor Gavin Newsom
California Governor Gavin Newsom

Newsom cited discrimination against minorities and the poor and his Catholic background as the reasons why he "will not oversee the execution of any individual". "Voters narrowly approved Proposition 66, a measure on the same ballot to streamline death penalty appeals", the Times reported.

He spoke about meeting men imprisoned in San Quentin State Prison, including a former high school classmate on death row and a foster brother who did time for dealing crack cocaine.

His administration's regulations are stalled by challenges in both state and federal court, but those lawsuits may be halted now that Newsom is officially withdrawing the regulations. He will also make a principled claim against the death penalty on its merits, a view with which the majority of Americans have disagreed with every year since the 1970s.

California has the biggest death row population in the country, with one in four USA inmates on death row incarcerated in the state.

The lethal injection chamber at San Quentin State Prison, photographed in 2010.

According to the state's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation death row list (pdf), 737 inmates were slated to be executed prior to the executive order. A Pew Research Center poll completed previous year found that a small majority of Americans support the death penalty but that those views were split by party.

He said he hoped California and the United States as a whole would ultimately end the death penalty for good. California hasn't executed anyone since 2006. More than three-quarters of Republicans support executions while only about a third of Democrats agree.

Newsom, who appeared emotional during the news conference, said he had met relatives of victims in recent days and acknowledged they were divided on the issue.

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