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January 21, 2011

Victims sue in California to try to undo controversial commutation by former Gov Schwarzenegger

The notable controversy in California over a last-day commutation by the last governor has taken an interesing legal turn, which is detailed in this Los Angeles Times piece headlined "Family sues Schwarzenegger over commutation of Nuñez's sentence; The parents of Luis Santos, the 22-year-old who was stabbed to death in a confrontation with the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, claim the ex-governor violated California's Victims Bill of Rights." Here are the details:

The parents of Luis Santos, a 22-year-old college student killed in a confrontation with the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, filed suit against former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Sacramento on Thursday, claiming that his decision to reduce the younger Nuñez's sentence violated California's Victims Bill of Rights.

During his last hours in office, Schwarzenegger cut Esteban Nuñez's 16-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter to seven years, without notifying the Santos family. Schwarzenegger noted in his commutation order that Nuñez, although involved in the fight that ended in Santos' death, did not inflict the fatal knife wound.

Under the Victims' Bill of Rights, which was added to the state Constitution following a 2008 ballot measure, victims have a right to be heard "upon request" in any proceeding involving a "post-conviction release decision." One of the Santos attorneys, Nina Salarno Ashford, said the family members didn't have a chance to request a hearing because they didn't know Schwarzenegger was going to take action. The former governor had a duty to inform the family, Ashford said....

Days after releasing the commutation order, Schwarzenegger sent the Santos family a letter apologizing for not informing them of his decision. Fred Santos, the victim's father, accused Schwarzenegger of reducing the sentence as a favor to Fabian Nuñez, who as Assembly Speaker was often an ally of the governor's.

The suit asks the court to reinstate Nuñez's original 16-year sentence, which a San Diego judge imposed after a plea bargain that reduced the original charge of murder to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

January 21, 2011 at 10:44 AM | Permalink


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Why can't people except the fact that the Governor did something with his pardon power? If he uses it he is wrong, however, if he does not he is also wrong. I don't care if you are a victim/advocate or one for the other side, you are both wrong. Find a happy medium, which I challenge that you cannot do. You waste the courts time in lawsuites of this type and do not even realize that you do so. Your feeding the lawyers pocket and clogging up the system with your hate and vengence. A DECISION WAS MADE, LIVE WITH IT.

Posted by: D.C. | Jan 21, 2011 11:46:38 AM

So you'd just live with it if this was your loved one? Why, because an outgoing governor did it for no good reason?

Posted by: MikeinCT | Jan 21, 2011 6:34:59 PM

morely likely mike he did it this way....is because of the idiots in the media and the public who will cruicife him NO MATTER WHAT he did...it's the only way to do it.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 21, 2011 7:57:34 PM

Personal feelings about the commutation aside (meaning I think it smacks of cronyism), does this mean that someone can sue simply because they disagree with the decision? Great! Talk about a slippery slope.

Posted by: disenfranchised | Jan 22, 2011 1:20:03 AM

Look at the post below which points out that it is hypocritical for people to LIKE prosecutorial discretion, but DISLIKE parole or govenorial discretion. Imagine if the prosecutor had simply decline to prosecute this: or dealt it out for a misdo assault? Would anyone even think of filing suit?

Posted by: S.cotus | Jan 22, 2011 11:19:34 PM

The truly frightening likelihood is that, for as bad as Schwarzenegger was, Brown is going to be even worse.

The pardon here was way out of line, but as long as the pardon power is plenary in the Executive, the lawsuit is going nowhere.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 23, 2011 10:29:47 PM

I think you are right when you say this. Hats off man, what a superlative knowledge you have on this subject…hope to see more work of yours.

Posted by: Health Blog | Jan 26, 2011 7:17:26 AM

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