Governors will have to notify prosecutors before acting on requests to commute prison terms under a measure that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Monday.
The bill was created in response to a decision by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, on his last day in office, to reduce the sentence for the son of a political ally.
Prosecutors will have a chance to notify an offender’s victims and their families under the new law, so they have time to provide input to the governor before a prison sentence is changed.
“Victims and their families should not be blindsided when a request is made for a sentence to be commuted,” said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown. “This bipartisan bill ensures ample notification and a more transparent process.”
Lawmakers including Assemblyman Marty Block (D-San Diego) introduced the measure at the request of San Diego Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis. She objected that Schwarzenegger did not notify her office or the family of a slain college student before he reduced the sentence imposed on the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez.
San Diego State student Luis Santos was stabbed to death during a brawl involving a group that included Esteban Nuñez, who last year pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Schwarzenegger reduced Esteban Nuñez’s sentence to seven years, saying a longer term was excessive because Nuñez did not inflict the fatal knife wound.
Block said Monday he was impressed that Brown signed AB 648 despite the restrictions it puts on his commutation powers. The measure requires at least 10 days’ notice to the district attorney’s office involved in the case.
“This is an important step in restoring people’s confidence in our judicial system,” Block said. “After Schwarzenegger’s abuse of power to do a favor for a friend, I think this is important to demonstrate there is one … justice for everybody.”
In April, Schwarzenegger told Newsweek that he felt good about the decision he made, adding, “Of course you help a friend.”
Block’s measure was one of 16 bills that Brown signed Monday. Another clarified that the state’s pension boards must divest their funds from companies that are part of the defense or nuclear industries in Iran. AB 1151 was by Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles).
The Legislature voted in 2007 to require state pension boards to liquidate investments in companies that do business in Iran’s energy sector. The new law is more specific about what kinds of companies are affected, such as those involved in building gas and oil pipelines.
It also provides an exemption if liquidation of an investment “would fail to satisfy a fiduciary responsibility.”