Mr. Nuñez was sentenced to 16 years in prison for aiding and abetting the stabbing death of a college student near San Diego State. His sentence was reduced to seven years by the Governor.
Right. The LA Times reports that the convict’s father “Fabian Nuñez, a Democrat, grew close to the Governor while speaker. The two worked together to pass the state’s landmark global warming law, which was a signature achievement of Schwarzenegger’s time in office. Fabian Nuñez is a business partner of the Governor’s chief political adviser at the consulting firm Mercury Public Affairs.”
“We are totally outraged,” said Fred Santos, the father of slain Luis Santos. “For the Governor to wait until the last day in hopes it would fly under the radar is an absolute injustice.
“The governor did not even have the courtesy to notify the victim’s family,” he said. “This is dirty politics: cutting backroom deals. I guess if you’re the son of somebody important you can kill someone and get all sorts of breaks.”
Nevermind that while Mr. Nuñez played a limited role in the death of this guy, he stabbed another guy in the same incident.
This is pure political favoritism. The Governor did commute a couple of more worthy cases. He commuted the sentence of Sara Kruzan, who had shot and killed her pimp in 1994 when she was a 16-year-old prostitute. He commuted that sentence from life without parole to 25 years to life with the possibility of parole.
He also commuted the sentence of Alberto Torres who shot and killed a guy in 1999 in self-defense, fearing that the victim was attempting to run him over with a car. That sentence was shortened to ten years from 25 years to life.
So with such worthy cases, the Governor commutes the sentence of the son of a prominent politician?
One person that the Governor did not assist is Kevin Cooper, who sits on death row despite serious questions about whether he actually committed the four murders in 1983 that he was convicted of.
The LA Times, shortly before Christmas, joined the chorus of calls for his death sentence to be commuted.
The Times noted that considerable doubt has been cast upon the evidence used to convict Mr. Cooper of four murders that occurred in San Bernadino County in 1983.
The Times editorial cites, among other things, the analysis by federal Judge William Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
They write, “Much of the evidence against Cooper has been seriously questioned, most comprehensively in an opinion by Judge William A. Fletcher of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, who dissented from a decision not to hear an appeal by Cooper. Fletcher noted that Josh originally said the killers were three white or Hispanic men (Cooper is black); that the warden of the prison where Cooper had been incarcerated said the shoe that made the bloody footprint was sold to the public; and that the cigarette butts, which were not found in the original inspection of the car, could easily have been planted. What’s more, the station wagon turned up in Long Beach.”
The Times writes, “Long after his conviction, as Cooper was pursuing appeals, a blood test was performed on the T-shirt; according to analysts, the test detected Cooper’s DNA. At first, that seemed to be the incontrovertible scientific evidence that had for so long been elusive — but Fletcher noted that the blood on the T-shirt contained signs of a preservative used by the sheriff’s office to preserve blood in a laboratory for later testing. According to the judge, that suggested the blood “had been planted on the T-shirt.””
“Fletcher wrote that Cooper ‘is probably innocent of the crimes for which the state of California is about to execute him.’ Whether or not that’s true, the judge makes a compelling argument that sheriff’s office investigators planted evidence in order to convict Cooper and discarded or disregarded other evidence pointing to other killers — creating not just reasonable but serious doubt about his guilt,” the Times wrote.
They conclude, “This newspaper opposes the death penalty under any circumstances, and we wouldn’t object if the governor commuted the sentences of all  people on California’s death row. But execution is especially outrageous when the prisoner may be innocent. Gov. Schwarzenegger should commute Cooper’s sentence.”
Amnesty International has also noted this case. In a letter to the governor, Amnesty International’s USA Executive Director Larry Cox wrote, “Allowing the execution of Kevin Cooper to proceed would compound the injustice of the murders for which he was sentenced to death, especially because a giant cloud looms over the reliability of his conviction.”
Mr. Cox added that while “as a human rights organization, Amnesty International supports justice and accountability for the victims of this abhorrent crime,” the organization is “very concerned about the deep doubts raised as to Mr. Cooper’s guilt.”
Judge Fletcher was writing for at least five other judges in his dissent, and they noted in writing that California was about to execute an innocent man, “There is no way to say this politely,” they said. “The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing and… imposed unreasonable conditions on the testing” ordered by the Ninth Circuit.
“It is not every day that a distinguished federal judge argues that a death row prisoner is likely innocent, detailing in over one hundred pages the ways in which police and prosecutors tainted the case,” said Laura Moye, director of Amnesty International’s USA Death Penalty Abolition Campaign. “It is incredibly difficult to dismiss the severity of the claim that Cooper was framed for a crime he did not commit, given the many judges who have joined Justice Fletcher’s dissent.”
Even if the Governor were not convinced of Mr. Cooper’s innocence, commuting the sentence to life without parole contains very little risk to the public or the state. And yet apparently the Governor, while refusing to do that, puts a potentially dangerous man on the streets within, at most, a couple of years.
The Governor could do the state a favor by putting a number of people, who committed very minor crimes but were sentenced to long prison sentences, out of prison and back to their homes and families.
—David M. Greenwald reporting