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Two years after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a moratorium on executions in California, he is preparing to appoint a state attorney general from a field of potential candidates that includes some of the state’s leading critics of the death penalty.

With current Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra up for Senate confirmation as President Biden’s secretary of Health and Human Services, criminal justice reform activists have recommended for the job candidates including a district attorney who has stopped seeking the death penalty in murder cases and elected officials who have backed unsuccessful ballot measures to repeal capital punishment.

“I’m certain the governor will be looking for an attorney general who shares his opposition to the death penalty,” said Cristine Soto DeBerry, executive director of Prosecutors Alliance of California, a group that opposes capital punishment. “I would hope that we would have an attorney general that’s seeking to move us toward abolition of the death penalty.”

Newsom staked out his position in 2019 when he issued an executive order placing a moratorium on executions, despite the death penalty remaining legal and part of the state Constitution. The order at the time affected 737 inmates on California’s death row.

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