At the request of Governor Gavin Newsom, the Supreme Court today recommended clemency for Eric Cowan, allowing Newsom to commute a 1998 140 years to life third-strike sentence for robbery and attempted robbery. The commutation will make Cowan eligible for an earlier parole suitability hearing.
The Governor is constitutionally required to get the court’s recommendation before he can grant clemency to anyone, like Cowan, who has been “twice convicted of a felony.” The court has said it reviews requests for clemency recommendations under a deferential standard.
Today’s action maintains Newsom’s nearly perfect record of clemency recommendation requests. Newsom withdrew one request before a ruling, but the court has approved all 41 of the requests it has decided. That’s better than former Governor Jerry Brown, who had the court without explanation block 10 intended clemency grants.
Newsom made the recommendation request for Cowan in October.
There are now two clemency recommendation requests pending. One was submitted at the same time as the Cowan request (that one is technically not pending now; the court earlier this month told Newsom to resubmit the record by the end of the year with a justification for keeping parts of it confidential (see here)), and the other was docketed less than two weeks ago.