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  1. ITV Report

Could this be the last person to be executed by the state of California?

An image released of Clarence Ray Allen before his death. Credit: California Department of Corrections

A murderer killed by lethal injection after a 23-year-long wait on death row could be the last person put to death in the state of California.

Clarence Ray Allen was jailed for three counts of first degree murder and one count of conspiracy to murder. His death sentence was carried out in 2006 under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Now California's governor plans to sign a reprieve for the 737 inmates on the US's largest death row. It would bring to an end the state's threat of execution 13 years after California last put a prisoner to death.

One in four inmates on death row in the US are housed in California - more than any other US state.

  • Why has California's governor taken this decision?
A condemned inmate is led out of his east block cell on death row at San Quentin State Prison, in San Quentin, California. Credit: AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File

Governor Gavin Newsom called the death penalty “a failure” that “has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation”.

The governor said innocent people had been wrongly convicted and sometimes put to death.

A series of legal challenges have stalled the state's use of the death penalty for several years, meaning Gov Newsom's move is largely symbolic, but campaigners believe the state's size and influence could set a precedent for the rest of the United States.

California Governor Gavin Newsom is to halt executions in the state. Credit: AP

While his move is certain to be challenged in court, aides say his power to grant reprieves is written into the state constitution and that he is not altering any convictions or allowing any condemned inmate a chance at an early release.

Who opposes the move?

Gov Newsom faces strong opposition.

In 2016, Californian voters narrowly approved a ballot measure to speed up the punishment.

US President Donald Trump tweeted his views on Newsom's policy. He said: "Friends and families of the always forgotten victims are not thrilled, and neither am I!"

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The president of Los Angeles County Association of Deputy District Attorneys, Michele Hanisee, said Mr Newsom "is usurping the express will of California voters and substituting his personal preferences via this hasty and ill-considered moratorium on the death penalty".

  • How does California compare to other US states?
A guard stands watch over condemned inmates on death row at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California. Credit: AP

In total, there are more than 2,700 prisoners on death row in the US.

Seventy-nine condemned California inmates have died of natural causes since the state reinstated capital punishment in 1978.

Another 26 took their own lives. California has executed 13 inmates, while two were executed in other states.

+2,700
Prisoners currently on death row in the US.
+560
Prisoners executed in the state of Texas since the mid-1970s.

Texas has carried out the most executions, more than 560 since the mid-70s.

Virginia and Oklahoma follow the southern state's lead, each carrying out more than 110 executions in the same period.

Other states have enacted legislation to remove the death penalty.

Republican Illinois Governor George Ryan was the first in 2000 and was later followed by Pennsylvania, Washington and Oregon.

Illinois ultimately outlawed executions, as did Washington.

Changes made in California could be overturned, meaning a subsequent governor could reintroduce the death penalty, should they wish to do so.

  • Who was Clarence Ray Allen?
Clarence Ray Allen murdered and then got a fellow inmate to kill those who had informed on him. Credit: AP

Allen, who was educated to the age of 14, spent 23 years and one month on death row before his sentence was carried out a day after he celebrated his 76th birthday.

His story starts when he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1978 for the murder of a woman who informed on him following a burglary at a market in Fresno, California.

Whilst behind bars he met another inmate, Billie Ray Hamilton, who agreed to kill those who helped to secure his time behind bars.

Following Hamilton's release on parole, he was met by Allen's son who supplied him with weapons for the crime.

Arnold Schwarzenegger faced protests after he sanctioned the execution of Clarence Ray Allen. Credit: AP

During the investigation, officers found Hamilton's address book contained Allen's name. Hamilton's victims and the location of the offence led prosecutors to Allen.

Allen was then convicted of three counts of first degree murder with special circumstances. He was also convicted of one count of conspiracy to murder. For his role in the crimes, he would pay the ultimate price.

Allen was moved onto death row at California’s San Quentin State Prison on December 2, 1982. He would spend the next two decades confined there.

Shortly after midday on January 17, 2006, he was administered the lethal injection. He died 18 minutes later.

His last meal consisted of buffalo steak, Kentucky Fried Chicken with all white meat, fried bread, sugar-free pecan pie, black walnut ice cream and whole milk.

In a statement he thanked the people who had written to him during his time behind bars.