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Gov. Jerry Brown grants 132 pre-Christmas pardons, commutes 19 sentences

Gov. Jerry Brown grants 132 pre-Christmas pardons, commutes 19 sentences
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during a summit held mid-December in France. (Eric Feferberg / AFP/ Getty Images)

Gov. Jerry Brown granted 132 pardons and commuted 19 sentences on Saturday, continuing his tradition of Christmastime clemency.

Brown typically grants clemency around Christmas Eve and Easter, focusing largely on those whose run-ins with the law occurred years ago. Those pardoned Saturday had already completed their sentences, the majority of which were for drug-related or other nonviolent crimes, the governor’s office said.

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Those hoping for pardons must obtain a certificate of rehabilitation from a court or petition the governor’s office directly. Applicants must show that they are living productive, law-abiding lives. Pardons do not erase their convictions, but allow certain rights to be restored.

Since beginning his third term as governor in 2011, Brown has pardoned more than 1,000 people — far more than his most recent predecessors, according to figures provided by the governor’s office.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger granted 15 pardons during his time in office. Gray Davis granted none.

Other governors, however, handed down far more pardons, including George Deukmejian, who granted 325; Ronald Reagan, 574; and Brown’s father, Pat Brown, who granted 467.

Inmates can apply to have their sentences reduced. Most of the 19 people whose sentences were shortened Saturday were given an earlier chance to go before a parole board, which will determine whether they are ready to be released.

On the list was a Los Angeles woman who was ultimately sentenced to life in prison after initially agreeing to a plea deal that promised possible parole after 7½ years. Candace Fox, 57, has spent more than 33 years behind bars despite a legal back-and-forth that prompted concern from a federal appeals court.

The case stems from the 1984 robbery and killing of Lewis Levy, a man who allegedly owed Fox’s roommate money. Fox and some friends decided to rob Levy and use the proceeds to buy cocaine, according to court records.

Although Fox did not kill Levy — it was her roommate who repeatedly stabbed him — she hit him in the head with a beer bottle.

Fox agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and testify against a co-defendant. Once in prison, Fox learned that the deal she struck — a shot at parole in 7½ years — was not allowed under the law.

A state appeals court set aside the plea and Fox was tried again. Without the presence of the original co-defendants, she was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Fox petitioned the governor earlier this year, saying she thought about Levy and his family almost every day and has tried to make amends by working to help others in prison. She asked the governor to commute her sentence to second-degree murder with the possibility of parole.

In his commutation, Brown noted that the two other people involved in the robbery were “primarily responsible” for Levy’s killing. One remains in prison, but has had several chances to go before a parole board, the governor wrote. Another was released from prison on parole.

“Ms. Fox helped prosecutors obtain these convictions and has now been incarcerated for more than 33 years,” Brown wrote. “Justice is not served by continuing to deny her the opportunity she was promised decades ago — the chance to show that she is worthy of release.”

Brown reduced Fox’s sentence to 15 years in prison, allowing her something she has long sought: a parole hearing.

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