CA Governor Issues 37 Pardons, 18 Commutations and Asks State Supreme Court to Pardon Podcaster with Links to Actor Morgan Freeman

By The Vanguard Staff

SACRAMENTO, CA – Earlonne Woods, a well-known podcaster formerly incarcerated at San Quentin who recently agreed to do a documentary with actor Morgan Freeman, is among 37 pardons and 18 commutations granted by California Gov. Gavin Newsom made public Friday.

Newsom, said Politico, “moved to clear the record of Woods, whose potential life sentence was originally commuted by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018…Newsom plans to file a request to get Woods clemency, but he needs approval from the state Supreme Court to pardon someone who has been convicted of two or more felonies.”

Clemency “recognizes the grantee’s self-development and accountability after conviction. A clemency grant does not forgive or minimize the harm the grantee caused,” noted the governor’s office, adding pardons remove employment restrictions, restore civic rights and stop deportations. Commutations make people eligible to go before the Board of Parole Hearings for parole. 

Politico reported, “In 2017, Woods helped launch the podcast Ear Hustle. The podcast is named for the prison slang for eavesdropping and tells the stories of currently and recently incarcerated people from San Quentin, the state’s oldest and one of its most notorious lockups. Ear Hustle has won multiple journalism awards, received two Peabody nominations and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2020.”

Deadline said last week the podcast is in a partnership with Freeman’s Revelations Entertainment for an upcoming docuseries.

“Woods spent 21 years in prison and now advocates for the repeal of California’s Three-Strikes Law, which resulted in a longer prison term for the Los Angeles native. In 1997 at age 25, Woods was sentenced to 31-years-to-life for attempted robbery. The long stint stemmed from the fact that Woods had two prior convictions from when he was a minor. The robbery was his third strike,” wrote Politico.

Woods was released from prison after Gov. Brown commuted his sentence, but a pardon would restore rights and privileges. 

“The Governor weighs numerous factors in his review of clemency applications, including an applicant’s self-development and conduct since the offense, whether the grant is in the interest of justice, and the impact of a grant on the community, including crime victims and survivors,” according to a statement from Newsom’s office. 

Since elected governor in 2018, Newsom has issued 181 pardons, 141 commutations and 40 reprieves. 

Among those receiving a commutation, making them eligible for consideration of early parole, were Rodney Buckley and Terrance Harris, both only teens when send to prison for life. 

According to the Sacramento Bee, “Buckley was convicted by the Sacramento County Superior Court in 2009 on two counts of attempted murder and received a sentence of 59 years and four months to life in prison. Harris fatally shot a person in a park in 2001 and three years later the Sacramento County Superior Court convicted him of murder and sentenced him to 50 years to life.

Newsom’s office noted both incarcerated were young offenders — Buckley was 19 and Harris was 20. Newsom’s office reported both men have “devoted themselves to self-improvement while incarcerated. Harris serves as chairman of the inmate advisory committee at his prison.”

“Correctional staff and correctional medical staff have commended Mr. Harris for his rehabilitative gains and extraordinary service to staff and other incarcerated people in his institution during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the commutation of sentence. 

Politico wrote, “Newsom also commuted sentences for seven people convicted of murder, including Jeffrey Newvine who fatally stabbed his neighbor in 1995 and Elaine Wong, a 73-year-old grandmother who killed someone during a robbery to clear her gambling debt in 1980. A petition for Wong’s release has nearly 7,000 signatures on”

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