Ministers of Justice from 25 countries have joined the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio, one of the new lay movements in the Catholic Church, to jointly issue an appeal to California Governor Jerry Brown to impose a moratorium on the death penalty in his state.

Should Brown comply, the moratorium could be short-lived, since Gavin Newsom will be sworn in as California’s new chief executive on Jan. 7. Yet Sant’Egidio insists the measure is urgent, since California presently has the largest death row in the Western world with 742 inmates awaiting execution.

The appeal came from a Sant’Egidio-sponsored conference at the Italian parliament on “A World Without the Death Penalty.” It was presented by Mario Marazziti, coordinator of Sant’Egidio’s campaign for a universal death penalty moratorium, representing the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Ministries of Justice from South Africa, Benin, Zimbabwe, and Malaysia.

“We launch an appeal to a great American politician, Jerry Brown, governor for four terms with a vision for the State of California, the state with the largest death row in the Western world in San Quentin: 742 death row inmates waiting for execution, among them innocent people.”

“The appeal I launch, on behalf of this congress and the Ministers here gathered, is that the governor declare a death penalty moratorium and begin the process to commute all death sentences before leaving his office by the end of the year,” Marazziti said.

“It [would be] a gesture of great political wisdom that will strengthen the authoritativeness of the system of justice in California, a state where half of death sentences come from only 3 counties out of 53, [and] where they seem to be related more to geography than the nature of the crimes and those convicted for the crimes,” Marazziti said.

In reality, if Brown were to take such a step, its significance would be largely symbolic. Of the 971 California death sentences recorded by the Death Penalty Information Center since 1978, only 13 condemned inmates have been executed, while Californians have paid more than $5 billion to maintain the system.

Full story at Crux.