Dumanis, others, applaud law on commutations - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Dumanis, others, applaud law on commutations

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A commutation law giving prosecutors and others with a stake in criminal cases time to write to the governor before action is taken on prison sentences represents a "major victory" for crime victims across the state, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 648, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Monday, requires the district attorney and victims in criminal cases to be notified when a defendant applies for clemency.

"No longer will the victims have the rugs pulled out from underneath them with a secret communication to help a friend," Dumanis said. "Because of this law, victims will now have a chance to have their voices heard when a convicted criminal applies for clemency."

AB 648, sponsored by the San Diego County District Attorney's Office and co-authored by Assemblymen Marty Block, D-Bonita, and Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, was written in response to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to cut the sentence of a lawmaker' son from 16 to seven years.

The commutation for Esteban Nunez came on Schwarzenegger's last day in office and infuriated the family of the man who died in the stabbing for which Nunez was convicted.

The son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon in the October 2008 stabbing death of 22-year-old Luis Santos near the campus of San Diego State University.

Fred and Kathy Santos, the victim's parents, found out about the commutation from a reporter.

Schwarzenegger later admitted helping his friend -- the elder Nunez -- with his son's case.

"Last-minute commutations without notifications are just wrong and they show an arrogance on the part of our former governor that we need to legislate against," Block said. "Thanks to Governor Brown, no victim will ever be blindsided by a secretive midnight commutation."

AB 648 -- which takes effect Jan. 1 -- requires anyone applying for commutation to notify prosecutors and victims 10 days before the governor acts. The process also requires a written report to the Legislature, including a copy of any application for clemency filed by a defendant.

Dumanis -- whose office filed a lawsuit to nullify the commutation of Nunez's sentence --- said she has never seen his application for clemency.

Speaking on the third anniversary of his son's death, Fred Santos called Schwarzenegger's commutation a "heartless, illegal act."

Even though AB 648 does not affect his son's case, Santos said he hoped it would help other crime victims stay abreast of developments that could result in a prisoner's early release.

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