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Jerry Brown grants clemency to 79 criminals

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Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday conveyed his current pardons, restoring civil rights to 79 felons, many of them convicted of minor drug crimes decades ago.

Typical of the cases is that of Jorge Baeza, a Los Angeles resident convicted of possession and sale of marijuana in 1998, and who has been on the state pardon waiting list since 2003.

A statement from Brown's office called the executive pardons "earned," saying: "Obtaining a pardon is a distinct achievement based upon proof of a productive and law-abiding life following conviction."

The governor's Christmas Eve list consists mostly of people who convinced local Superior Courts to award them a certificate of rehabilitation, indicating they had been in recovery for at least 10 years.

Brown's office would not immediately provide access to the pardon applications, recommendations of prosecutors and victims' statements, all now allowed under a 2011 state law. He is required under that law to provide a fuller report to the Legislature when it begins regular session.

Pardons, reprieves and commutations are allowed by the California Constitution. They don't seal criminal records but restore civil rights, allowing felons to vote, serve on a jury or work in prohibited jobs, such as a parole or probation officer. Those not convicted of a crime involving a dangerous weapon regain the right to own a firearm.

Brown is among California's most pardonable modern governors. In his first tenure in office, from 1975 to 1983, he granted clemency to 403 criminals. The 21 executive pardons he delivered in 2011 surpassed the 16 pardons and 10 commuted sentences of Arnold Schwarzenegger's seven years in office. Gray Davis granted none. Ronald Reagan delivered 575 pardons.

Brown in 2011 refused parole for 71 first- and second-degree murderers whose release had been recommended by the state parole board.

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Brown grants pardons, denies parole for convicted murderers

-- Paige St. John in Sacramento

--Updated at 2:23 p.m. to reflect that Brown's office notes this is not an "annual" list . There are seven days remaining in the year during which he could issue more pardons.

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown has restored civil rights to 79 felons, allowing them privileges including voting and serving on a jury. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

 
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