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Bill would require that victims' families be notified before governor reduces prison sentences

February 17, 2011 |  6:24 pm

Prosecutors and a victim's family would have to be notified before a governor could reduce the sentence of a prisoner under a bill endorsed by San Diego County Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis, two state legislators and the parents of slain college student Luis Santos.

On his last day in office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced the sentence for Esteban Nuñez, son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, from 16 years to 7. The younger Nuñez had pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault in the death of Santos during an attack outside San Diego State.

Schwarzenegger made his decision without notifying San Diego prosecutors or the Santos family that Esteban Nuñez's attorney was seeking a commutation of his sentence.

AB648, introduced by Assembly members Marty Block and Nathan Fletcher, would require the applicant for a pardon or commutation to notify prosecutors at least 30 days before the governor makes a decision. The prosecutors would be required to notify a victim's family.

Both could submit arguments opposing any reduction in sentence -- the procedure used during parole hearings.

Dumanis, Fletcher (R-San Diego), Block (D-San Diego) and Fred and Kathy Santos held a news conference Thursday in San Diego to announce their support for the legislation, which would change state law. Two similar bills aim at changing the state Constitution.

"Last-minute commutations like the one made recently, without all the facts or input from the parties, only fuel the public's mistrust of government and greatly diminish justice," Dumanis said.

Kathy Santos, her voice choking with emotion, said that in cutting the sentence for the son "of a political crony," Schwarzenegger forced the Santos family to "live the nightmare of having justice stolen from us."


--Tony Perry in San Diego