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California governor on halting executions: "It's a racist system. You cannot deny that."

Gov. Newsom on halting "racist" death penalty
Gov. Gavin Newsom on halting death penalty: "It's a racist system. You cannot deny that." 05:18

There are 737 inmates on death row in California – most of any state in the nation. But that could change now that Gov. Gavin Newsom, who took office in January, halted executions with an executive order.

"Just last year we had someone who was exonerated that spent 26 years on death row – joining the ranks of 164 human beings that have been exonerated, that have spent time on death row. It's a racist system. You cannot deny that," Newsom said Friday on "CBS This Morning." "It's a system that is perpetuating inequality. It's a system that I cannot in good conscience support."

Supporters say the governor is helping to end a barbaric and racist practice that does not deter crime, but he also faces backlash from families of crime victims. President Trump tweeted Newsom is defying voters who want to keep the death penalty. In 2012 and 2016, voters rejected a measure to abolish capital punishment.

In response, Newsom said, "I have the responsibility to advance my judgment pursuant to the constitution of the state, and I can provide reprieves. So I also have that right, and that's entrusted to me by the voters of California."

Governors are the "last backstop," he said. "You sign that death. You literally sign a piece of paper putting another human being to death. And if I executed someone in California, I'd be doing it every day for the next two years," Newsom said.

"What kind of state, what kind of country does that?" he added. "And by the way, that's a worthy question to answer, not just to ask. Saudi Arabia, North Korea, I mean, there are few countries in the world that still execute their citizens in a premeditated way."

Newsom on "outrageous" college admissions scam

Newsom also addressed the massive college admissions cheating scandal where 50 people, including Hollywood celebrities, were indicted Tuesday. The racketeering conspiracy case included UCLA and University of Southern California.

"I thought it was outrageous, unconscionable," Newsom said. "I serve on the UC regents, UC board of trustees. But then I immediately thought this: What about the legalized version of that? What about the folks writing the $20 million check, putting their name on that building?"

He said that's a "more insidious issue that we need to address."

"We've got to reflect on this in a much deeper way. It's all about money. It's all about money," Newsom said. "Two-thirds of the folks in these positions of influence as administrators – their purpose, they're literally judged on their basis of their connections and ability to raise money. But with that comes some expectation. People aren't just benignly writing $100 million checks. They expect something more than just their name attached. They're going to get a return phone call."

He acknowledged it applies to politicians as well.

"Deeply true with anyone in positions of influence, and politicians are among them," Newsom said.

Watch the video above to see why Newsom is in "love" with the spirit of the Green New Deal, a movement he said California has already been leading. 

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