Vox Sentences: An executive order on executions

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California puts a moratorium on the death penalty; a senior Catholic cleric will go to prison for child sex abuse.


A death row reprieve

Governor Gavin Newsom Announces He Will Sign Moratorium On Executions In CaliforniaJustin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order on Wednesday to suspend the state’s death penalty. Voters may ultimately choose whether to permanently remove the death penalty, but Newsom’s move temporarily took 737 inmates off death row. [NPR / Scott Shafer and Marisa Lagos]
  • It’s been more than a decade since the last execution in California, when an inmate opposed the lethal injection protocol in a legal case that is nearing a deadline — which Newsom sidestepped with his executive action. [CNN / Maeve Reston]
  • “Friends and family of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled and neither am I!” President Trump tweeted in response on Wednesday. California has the most death row inmates but has not carried out an execution since 2006. The next potential opportunity for voters to decide on the death penalty is the 2020 election, but the measure to eliminate executions has failed to pass in both the 2012 and 2016 elections. [BBC]
  • Support for the death penalty varies by race, too, with white voters usually supporting executions and black voters opposing the penalty. Black people also struggle to get on juries while also being more likely to go on trial. Newsom added in his decision that more than half of the inmates on death row in California are people of color. [Vox / Dylan Scott]
  • Newsom also argued to taxpayers that Californians paid $5 billion since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. He campaigned on a commitment to voters’ wishes, which is drawing criticism now that he’s putting his personal policies in front of what ballots have said. [Sacramento Bee / Sophia Bollag]

An Australian cardinal faces six years in prison

  • Cardinal George Pell of Australia was sentenced to six years in prison for child sex abuse, just weeks after the Vatican held a meeting on combating the issue within the church. Pell is the most senior cleric to be found guilty of child molestation. [NPR / Sylvia Poggioli]
  • Experts say the case will set a precedent for prosecutions going forward. Pell served as the Vatican’s chief financial officer and advised Pope Francis. The 77-year-old was convicted on five counts. [NYT / Livia Albeck-Ripka and Damien Cave]
  • The charges involve the case of two boys whom Pell sexually assaulted in the 1990s. The cardinal provided scholarships to the boys, who in exchange were required to sing at his cathedral. The judge also took into account Pell’s seeming lack of remorse (Pell pleaded not guilty and did not testify at the trial). Critics say he should have received a harsher sentence; each of the five convictions he received has a maximum 10 years in prison. [Washington Post / A. Odysseus Patrick]
  • The judge cited Pell’s medical history when giving the sentence, claiming he took into account the cleric’s age and “cardiac issues.” Pell will be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life. The cardinal claims he is innocent and his team plans to appeal the conviction in June. [ABC / Doha Madani and Associated Press]
  • Pope Francis declared an “all-out battle” against child sexual abuse by clergy last month at the Vatican summit. Pell’s high position within the Catholic Church has highlighted criticism that the summit should have focused on removing clergy in power who allowed abuse to occur under their watch. [Al Jazeera / Max Walden]

Miscellaneous

  • All Boeing 737 Max planes in the US will be grounded immediately. President Trump gave the order on Wednesday not to fly the planes, which were involved in similar deadly crashes in Indonesia last year and Ethiopia on Sunday. Voice and data records from the most recent crash will be sent to Europe. [Washington Post / Luz Lazo, Michael Laris, Lori Aratani, and Felicia Sonmez]
  • Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair, received an extended prison sentence on Wednesday. He faces seven and a half years in prison — the longest sentence for any person included in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election. Manafort was found guilty of witness tampering and lobbying crimes. [Politico / Darren Samuelsohn]
  • The days leading up to the March 29 Brexit deadline are sure to be full of twists and turns. Enjoy this graphic of every potential Brexit outcome. [Quartz / Amanda Shendruk]
  • Eat what you drop on the floor? Our immune systems are at a loss without exposure to dirt or germs. Humans have gotten so good at minimizing exposure to our environment that we risk depleting immunity strength. [NYT / Matt Richtel]
  • There are legal ways to gain favor in the college admissions process, through donations or school legacy. But now reports of outright law-breaking by wealthy parents across the country have tipped the scales of the broken acceptance system. [Atlantic / Alia Wong]

Verbatim

“We’re looking at some ways to revisit the law. There’s a lot of discomfort with the law. … Was it too broad back in the ’70s when it was passed? So yeah, we’re discussing altering that.” [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on presidential emergency powers in a press conference on Wednesday]


Watch this: Why you still don’t understand the Green New Deal

Political news coverage tends to focus on strategy over substance, and that’s making it less likely that the public will agree on big policy ideas when we need them the most. [YouTube / Carlos Maza and Madeline Marshall]


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