SACRAMENTO -- Even though legal controversy remains over how long convicted murderers must remain in prison before a state parole board decides they can safely be released, the odds of those people seeing freedom have greatly increased under Gov. Jerry Brown.
Parole release records for Brown's first two years in office show he has a track record of blocking fewer than one out of five releases recommended by the state Board of Parole Hearings. In 2011, Brown reversed releases for 71 convicts out of 412 recommended for parole. Most were serving 15- or 25-years-to-life sentences for second- or first-degree murder.
The three governors before Brown allowed many fewer releases.
A Stanford study on parole outcomes in California found that Gov. Pete Wilson in the 1990s heard only a handful of cases and rejected 27% of them. Gov. Gray Davis blocked virtually every parole grant that reached his desk, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reversed or returned for further hearings almost 80% of the cases of murderers who had been found suitable for release. However, many of those reversals were overturned later by court judges.
So far this year, the governor's press office said Monday, Brown has reviewed 673 grants of parole to inmates serving possible life sentences and reversed 99. He sent 27 back for reconsideration.
Brown's rulings this year include blocking parole for a member of Charles Manson's cult, Bruce Davis. In his reversal, Brown said he wanted Davis to shed more light on his role in the Manson family killings.
Brown in October approved the release of Sara Kruzan, now 35, who was imprisoned for killing a man she contended had groomed her since age 11 to work for him as a child prostitute.
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