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State government

Gov. Jerry Brown issues pardons, commutes sentences hours before Easter Sunday

Continuing his tradition of considering the requests of felons for a second chance both at Christmas and Easter, Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday issued 72 pardons and seven sentence commutations for crimes ranging from burglary to being an accomplice in a murder.

The bulk of the actions by Brown, however, were for nonviolent drug crimes. Former prisoners who served time for those offenses have made up the majority of gubernatorial pardons since Brown took office in 2011.

The governor's seven commuted sentences offer most of those involved a chance to be released from prison by the State Board of Parole Hearings.

Only one of the commutations will result in immediate release. Brown reduced the sentence of Maria Arriaga, a Los Angeles woman who was 18 when convicted of killing her newborn child. She was arrested after a suspicious hospital visit. Arriaga told doctors that the baby had been born at home, and did not bring the infant with her. Police later found the dead child at Arriaga's home. She was convicted of second-degree murder and received a sentence of 15 years to life in prison.

Arriaga was found suitable for parole last year, but her sentence did not allow release from prison until 2021.  The governor's commutation will allow her to be released immediately.

"She had hidden the pregnancy from her abusive boyfriend, her deeply devout Catholic parents, her sisters and her friends," Brown wrote. "Ms. Arriaga's conduct in prison has been exemplary and she has deep remorse for her crime."

The six dozen pardons granted on Saturday were for men and women who, in some cases, served their prison sentences decades earlier.

The governor issued 112 pardons on Dec. 23 and a news release on Saturday said that Brown's approach to requests from former felons is that "pardons are not granted unless they are earned."

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