Gavin Newsom says he 'can't in good conscience' support the death penalty

The California Governor explains his decision to suspend the death penalty and withdraw his National Guard from the border.
9:36 | 03/15/19

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Transcript for Gavin Newsom says he 'can't in good conscience' support the death penalty
Newsom is making headlines for his historic call to end the death penalty in his state, which has met with angry tweets from the white house. This comes on the heels of his threat to take trump to court to stop a border wall in we have to a lot to talk about with him, so please give a warm welcome to California governor Gavin Newsom. ??? Good energy. Good energy. How are you? Good. How are you? I'm well, thank you. You're even tall in the chair. Well, it is -- I could squeeze down. So governor, let's talk politics. On Wednesday you signed an executive order to impose a moratorium on the death penalty in California. Yeah. Essentially suspending it for the duration of your term as governor. It's a very controversial move. Why did you decide to do that? We have more people on death row than any other state in the nation, 737 people. Put it in perspective if you were me. I would be asked to sign off on one death every single day for two-plus years, one a week for 14 years, knowing that at least 4% of those, 30-plus people, were innocent. We had a person 26 years on death row that was just exonerated last year. I can't in good conscience do that. I just can't do that. I have to say as a former prosecutor, I agree with your decision because I know how flawed the system is, and I believe that one innocent person going to death is just not worth it. Yeah. That being said, 53% of californians voted against abolishing the death penalty in 2016. In fact, they also voted to speed up the process. So what do you say to the people of your state who feel that your executive order is basically going against the will of the people? The will of the people also allows for the governor to reprieve, to allow for a moratorium. I am afforded, pursuant to the constitution, the ability to make this determination, to make this decision. Look, I don't do this lightly. I don't do it flippantly. I have deep respect and admiration for people who have a different point of view. But at the end of the day when I'm talking to my kids, my four young kids, and my daughter says to me, you teach us not to kill and yet here I am in a premeditated way killing other people on behalf of the state, I just can't do that. What if the DNA proves that the person, a heinous criminal, has committed like child rape or assault, something so horrible and it matches with the DNA? We don't rape someone that's why do we kill someone that's killed. The bottom line is we can punish people. I'm not suggesting that people that do things that are heinous and outrageous don't deserve to be punished, they absolutely do but there's other ways to punish people. There's a difference between people just disagreeing with the policy and people that have lost someone they love because of a monster, a serial killer a I mass shooter. I know you've probably had these conversations with family members. Speak to them right now, the parents, someone that said my baby is now gone because of someone who is a complete monster and now you're going to let them continue to live. What do you say to that parent? I had 12 of those instances in the last week. Nothing more difficult, nothing more painful than to try to put myself in the shoes of someone else. For the grace of god go any of us to be in that position. Remarkably, I met a number of parents who said you don't have the right in my daughter's name to take another life. You will not be doing this for our family, you'll be doing this to our family. We are done with violence. We need to move on. So good people have different points of view. It's difficult. Another parent said the opposite, said you have a responsibility to eradicate What do you tell the parent though that still disagrees? I don't have closure. What do you say to the one who says you have to eradicate evil? I literally said there's nothing I can do to bring your child back. There's nothing I can say to change your point of view. The fact is though I'm entrusted to do something much broader than just address one individual I've got to address a system that is a race-based system, tremendous injustice for black and brown people. It's just a fact. You've heard this before but it's the truth and it goes deep to the issues that we've been debating and you guys have been talking about here as it relates to wealth and privileges and admissions in colleges. The fact is you're better off in this country if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent. No question about that. Paul manafort, all of this. We've had 164 people on death row that have been exonerated, Just in the state of California? In this country since 1973. The fact is there are literally hundreds of people on death row right now that are there for crimes they did not commit. Again, it's not an intellectual conversation. I have to sign off on that execution, and in an effort to do that you have to dig deep, and this becomes a moral issue. It's a very emotional issue and, Abby, you're spot on, to be able to look at a victim's family and say I need this for closure and not provide that. This is tough. Can we talk about another issue which disproportionately affects your state, immigration. When Donald Trump declared a nat emergency on the border, you withdrew the National Guard and you said we'll see you in court which I think it has, in fact, already begun to happen. So what do we do about the as a border state, what is the solution, do you think? Let me say this, I pulled the National Guard because I didn't want to be part of this political theatre. I pulled the National Guard because we do not have a national emergency. I pulled the National Guard because I wanted to push back against trump as we have 47 lawsuits against the trump administration not because we wake up every morning choosing to -- but because we stand up. We practice pluralism. We're a universal state and I'm on the backs of the citizens of my state and I want to put a human face on this issue and the human face for me are those asylum seekers coming here legally through the ports of entry legally, coming in with their children that seek nothing more than the things we take for granted in this country. I'm not going to step over them on the streets and sidewalks. I'm not going to diminish them by talking down to them. I want to elevate the human spirit. That's what California represents and I think that's what America represents at its core. You know, you and I agree politically on probably nothing and instead of -- thank you, one person clapping for me. But you know what, when I knew you were coming on, I love your wife because your wife -- At least I married well. She has this incredible documentary called "Misrepresentation." It's a documentary that I've told other women in media to watch because it focuses on when I'm sitting here and a we're sitting here and a woman asks you a hard political question, it would be covered in a different way than if a man asked you that political that documentary came out a while ago. I don't think that much has what do you think the problem is and the problem that your wife so duly focused on in her documentary. First of all, thank you. I married a rock star. I'm blessed by my wife. You're a rock star. Hardly. But she really is because she's getting to the core of all of these issues which goes to the issues of toxic masculinity, the issue of hyper masculinity, which goes to explaining a lot of the politics that exist today. What she has is a following and I think it's a response to your question, that is we don't value in society what we feminize and what we feminize is care, collaboration and empathy. Think about a society that doesn't value care, empathy and collaboration, and that goes to the core of the issues we're having in this country. By the way, the biggest issue in this country, the crisis of boys. I would argue the most dangerous words in the English language are man up, be a man, don't be a sissy. We hear that all the time. What happens is that young child puts a mask on and their face grows in it. What we have in society is a crisis of suicides of disproportionately men and binge drinking. All these things in common, including mass shootings, men. Would you tell her I hope she has a followup to it. I don't think that much has changed and it's a really important documentary. I'm glad I saw it in my 20s. You're going to be running for president? No. Not this time around. 2024, kids. . Thanks to governor Gavin Newsom. We'll be right back. Announcer: Next week, Marcia

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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