Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sacramento Bee: Governor signs clemency notification bill

Jerry Brown signs law requiring victim notification in clemency cases

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Nine months after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger controversially shortened the prison sentence of a political ally's son, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Monday that he has signed legislation requiring victim notification in such cases.

Schwarzenegger did not notify the victim's family before reducing the prison sentence of Esteban Núñez from 16 years to seven in a case in which Núñez, the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon.

The Office of the San Diego County District Attorney and the family of Luis Santos, who was killed in the attack, have filed lawsuits claiming Schwarzenegger was required to notify victims before commuting Esteban Núñez's sentence.

In reducing the sentence, Schwarzenegger said 16 years was excessive for Esteban Núñez's crime.
A lawyer for Esteban Núñez has said Marsy's Law, on which the Santos family's lawsuit relies, does not apply to the executive branch of government, only the judicial.

Though not affecting Núñez's commutation, Assembly Bill 648, by Assemblyman Marty Block, D-San Diego, requires a governor to give written notice to local prosecutors in most cases at least 10 days before acting on an application to commute a sentence.

District attorneys must then try notifying any victims, allowing them time to protest.

The bill, backed by the San Diego County District Attorney's Office and other law enforcement groups, was signed by Brown without comment.

"It doesn't really change anything for us, but it paves the way for other families so this won't happen again," the victim's mother, Kathy Santos, told the Associated Press. "It will hold people accountable and not so much of this good-old-boys, backroom dealing. At least they'll be more accountable publicly for any future commutations."

The bill was one of 16 the Democratic governor announced signing on Monday, as his deadline to act on hundreds of bills approaches.

Brown vetoed three others, including legislation seeking to modify the state's overhaul of redevelopment agencies, the subject of pending litigation.

"Until the court issues its ruling in this case," Brown wrote, "it would be premature to consider the modifications proposed in this bill."

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