New Bill Would Bar Last-Minute Clemencies

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A state assemblyman is seeking a constitutional amendment that would prohibit a California governor from issuing last-minute pardons and commutations.

    The bill by Republican Assemblyman Allan Mansoor of Costa Mesa would prevent the kind of deal Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger extended during his last hours in office to the son of former Assembly speaker Fabian Nunez.

    The former Republican governor cut the sentence of 21-year-old Esteban Nunez to seven years from 16. Esteban Nunez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon in the stabbing death of a college student in San Diego.

    In one of his last acts as governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger cut Nunez's sentence from 16 years to seven. The last-minute decision prompted heavy criticism. The victim's family said it was outraged and shocked by the shorter sentence.

    The victim's family says they had no notice about the governor's action. The victim's parents said they learned about the decision through the media. They said that the outcome undermines their faith in the criminal-justice system.

    "I think it's absolutely despicable," said the victim's mother, Cathy Santos. "I think it's a huge injustice to our son.

    Schwarzenegger reduced Nunez's sentence to seven years, arguing that the original sentence was "excessive," especially since Nunez didn't have any criminal history. He also mentioned that it was unjust for Nunez to serve the full sentence, when another co-defendant, Ryan Jett, inflicted the fatal wounds that killed Santos. Jett was also given a 16-year sentence.

    The victim's father said the former governor's decision was morally wrong.

    "The justice system did not fail us, but the political system did," said Fred Santos. "Political favoritism is alive and well in Sacramento. Bottom line: [Nunez] pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges."

    Mansoor's amendment would require a governor to give interested parties 30 days' notice before granting a pardon, reprieve or commutation.
     
    Nunez may only have to serve 85 percent of his seven-year sentence.