Last week, Governor Jerry Brown sent to the Supreme Court 20 new requests for recommendations on pardons and commutations he proposes to grant before he leaves office just 83 days from today. This might strain the resources of the court that the Governor has left short-handed for more than 13 months.
The state constitution limits the Governor’s clemency powers by requiring a Supreme Court recommendation before a pardon or commutation can be granted to anyone convicted of more than one felony. Although the court this year announced it would engage in a deferential review of clemency recommendation requests, the court didn’t give the Governor a blank check. Consequently, the court has generally been taking three to four months to issue its recommendations and has responded to no more than a few requests at any one Wednesday conference. (See, e.g., here and here.)
Including the 20 new requests, there are now a total of 30 pending recommendation requests; one has been on the court’s docket since May. With that many on its plate and only nine more conferences before a new governor is sworn in, the court will have to increase its pace to respond to all the requests before Brown’s term ends.
This is not the first time Governor Brown has made time demands on a Supreme Court that has been hampered by his delay in appointing a seventh justice. In July, he asked the court to expedite oral argument in Cal Fire Local 2881 v. California Public Employees’ Retirement System, one of several high-profile pension cases.
The 20 new clemency recommendation requests still include none for death row inmates. But there are 8 for life-without-parole murderers and one for a former state senator. The requests, docketed since we published a list last month, are:
- Michael Fischer: commutation of a 35-years-to-life sentence for robbery with two prior felony enhancements.
- Gustavo Flores: commutation of a 40-years-to-life sentence for burglary and three prior felony enhancements.
- Tyrone Jackson: commutation of an LWOP sentence for two counts of murder, kidnapping, and firearm and prior felony enhancements.
- Richard Barnfield: commutation of sentences of 14 years for discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle, robbery, possession of a sawed-off gun, and vehicle theft; and of 25-years-to-life for assault on an inmate likely to cause great bodily injury.
- John Johnson: commutation of an LWOP sentence plus 9 years and 4 months for murder, 2 counts of robbery, vehicle theft, possession of a deadly weapon, and a firearm enhancement.
- Huey Ferguson: commutation of an LWOP sentence for first degree murder, robbery, burglary, and use of a deadly weapon.
- Jose Esquero: commutation of a three-strikes 27-years-to-life sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm and for possession of a controlled substance.
- Jessie Biggs: commutation of an LWOP sentence for first degree murder.
- Dean Jacobs: commutation of an LWOP sentence for first degree murder and a deadly weapon enhancement.
- Jesus Hernandez: commutation of a 36-years-to-life sentence for carjacking, robbery, and two prison term enhancements.
- Crystal Jones: commutation of an LWOP sentence for murder with a special circumstance plus one year for a deadly weapon enhancement.
- Thomas Marston: commutation of an LWOP sentence for two counts of first degree murder.
- Richard Richardson: commutation of a 47-year sentence for robbery, attempted robbery, and participation in a street gang, with enhancements for a prior violent felony conviction and firearm use.
- James King: commutation of a 25-years-to-life sentence for second degree robbery plus a 5-year prison term enhancement.
- Robert Glass: commutation of an LWOP sentence for first degree murder, attempted premeditated murder, burglary, and two counts of attempted robbery.
- Johanna Hudnall: commutation of a 34-year sentence for seven counts of burglary, plus defenseless-victim and prior felony enhancements.
- John Zech: pardon for previously served sentences for possession of concentrated cannabis and for possession of a controlled substance.
- Deborah Seal: pardon for two previously served sentences for transporting a controlled substance.
- Michael Crawford: pardon for previously served sentences for robbery and for two counts of burglary.
- Roderick Wright: pardon for previously served sentences for — as a teenager — taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent and for — as a state senator at the age of 61 — two counts of perjury, false declaration of candidacy, and five counts of fraudulently voting or attempting to fraudulently vote.