Retired California Senior Assistant Attorney General Ron Matthias criticized Governor Gavin Newsom in the California Globe this past August. Specifically, Matthias took issue with Newsom’s method of seeking the constitutionally required Supreme Court approval to grant clemency to anyone who has been “twice convicted of a felony.” (See here and here.)

The article noted that the Governor has asked the court for permission to commute the sentences of 13 murderers, including 10 who were sentenced to life without parole. (I count 12 LWOP commutations.) Matthias wrote, “Whatever might be the wisdom of Newsom’s actions, the manner in which he goes about securing clemency for those murderers—the first step toward releasing them on parole—is plainly calculated to dampen the public’s understanding of his efforts.”

Newsom does this in two ways, it was claimed. First, “by filing an innocuous form letter with the court that says little beyond naming the prisoner’s crimes in generic terms and reciting that ‘the Governor is contemplating a commutation of sentence’ in order to make them ‘eligible for a parole suitability hearing.’ ” Second, by submitting all documents other than the letter under seal, which shields the clemency file from public view unless an outsider timely files a motion to unseal the record. “Newsom’s unrelenting efforts to keep the public in the dark,” Matthias wrote, “have forced crime victims, the media, and prosecutors to file motions to unseal just to keep themselves and the public minimally informed about what he and (indirectly) the court are up to.”


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DA moves to oppose an LWOP clemency in the Supreme Court

District Attorneys might weigh in on Governor’s latest clemency requests; they criticize him for sealing records