Two California assemblymen have announced they will sponsor legislation aimed at placing limits on the California governor’s powers to commute, pardon or reprieve prisoners’ sentences, proposals that come in the wake of former Gov. Schwarzenegger’s controversial last-minute decision to commute Esteban Nuñez’s prison sentence from 16 years to seven.

Assemblyman Marty Block, a San Diego Democrat, will sponsor a legislative amendment drafted by the San Diego District Attorney’s Office that would require prisoners to tell prosecutors and victims when they apply to the governor for commutation of their sentence.

“We are seeking to ensure that the procedures used by the governor satisfy the victims’ rights under Marsy’s law, by providing notice to the victim and the district attorney and by ensuring that the governor has all the information before him at the time that he exercises his discretion,” said Laura Tanney, head of the district attorney’s Appellate Division, who drafted the legislation.

As I outlined on Sunday, prisoners who apply to the governor for a pardon are already required by statute to tell the district attorney that they’re making an application. That requirement doesn’t specifically apply to prisoners applying for commutation of their sentence.

Prosecutors of Nuñez, who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the stabbing death of Luis Santos in a drunken brawl, have cried foul over the governor’s 11th-hour commutation.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis told me last week she had no idea that an application had been made by Nuñez to have his sentence commuted and bemoaned the fact that the governor was allowed be told only one side of the story before making his decision.

Dumanis told me:

I still have not seen any of the papers filed, or any of the information that was provided to the governor for this decision, I think what was accepted as the truth was the defense’s version of things, that’s why it was so important that we should have had an opportunity to talk about the facts.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Bee reports that Assemblyman Allan Mansour, a Costa Mesa Republican, is authoring a constitutional amendment that would require the governor to give interested parties 30 days’ notice before using his constitutional power to reassess prisoners’ sentences.

That’s a more wide-ranging change than the San Diego effort. It would also have to be placed on an election ballot.

Here’s a snippet from the Bee:

Mansoor said in a statement that he was “appalled” by the governor’s actions, saying his decision “breaches a moral duty, is transparently political, and severely undermines victims’ rights in our State.”

“Although we can’t go back in time and right this wrong, we can ensure that this type of despicable action never happens again,” he said.

Please contact Will Carless directly at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or at 619.550.5670 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/willcarless.

Will Carless

Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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