Governor Jerry Brown of California Issues Christmas Pardons

Governor Jerry Brown

Governor Jerry Brown of California on December 23rd issued a number of pardons and sentence reductions. His decisions yesterday brought happy news to 151 individuals. The Governor granted 132 requests for pardons. He also commuted 19 prison sentences.

Pardons And Commutations

To qualify for a pardon in California, a prisoner in the California penal system must have completely served a sentence. The ex-convict must then supply evidence of having undergone rehabilitation sufficient to persuade a sitting Governor to grant a pardon. The issuance of a pardon by a Governor of California won't void a conviction, although it does become a matter of public record. California provides notice of the granting of a pardon.

Sentence reductions by contrast simply limit the amount of time a currently incarcerated prisoner must serve before release. The grant of a commutation in some situations may enable a prisoner sentenced to serve a prison sentence without any possibility of parole to seek a parole hearing. One of the recipients of the sentence commutations issued by Governor Brown yesterday, Candace Lee Fox, will now enjoy an opportunity to seek parole.

The Power to Overrule Courts

In the past, California's governors have varied widely in their willingness to exercise authority to grant pardons and commutations. Governors often exercise this power sparingly. Governor Pete Wilson declined to issue any pardons. However, Governor Jerry Brown's father, Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, issued a total of 467 pardons and 55 commutations during his two terms in office between 1959 and 1967.

Now the longest-serving governor in the state's history, Governor Jerry Brown has used the power of his office to pardon and commute some sentences. As of December 23rd, he has issued a total of 1,463 pardons. He usually announces pardons just before the Christmas holiday.

A Broad Spectrum

The beneficiaries of Governor Brown's recent sentence commutations include people convicted of a wide variety of offenses, including attempted murder, first degree murder and kidnapping. The commutations cited evidence of reform in prison. Several prisoners who received commutations had worked to train service dogs, and a number had earned academic degrees while incarcerated. Some had worked in programs to help assist other prisoners.

The Governor chose to pardon 60 people with drug offenses. Many pardon recipients had committed property crimes, however. Their convictions ranged from grand theft to arson and receipt of stolen property.