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Jerry Brown signs bill requiring notice before commuting sentences

October 3, 2011 |  5:44 pm

The governor will have to notify prosecutors before acting on future requests to commute prison terms under a  new law,  signed Monday, that was introduced in response to an eleventh-hour decision by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to reduce the sentence for the son of a political ally.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure, which would give prosecutors a chance to also notify the crime victims and their families so that 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 the governor. "This bipartisan bill ensures ample notification and a more transparent process."

Assemblymen Marty Block (D-San Diego) and Nathan Fletcher (R-San Diego) introduced the measure at the request of San Diego Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis, who objected that Schwarzenegger in January did not notify her office or the family of a slain college student before reducing the sentence imposed on the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.

San Diego State student Luis Santos was stabbed to death during a brawl involving a group that included Esteban Nunez, who last year pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon. In the hours before he left office in January, Schwarzenegger reduced Esteban Nunez’s sentence from 16 years to seven years.

"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 set of justice for everybody."

-- Patrick McGreevy