By Donna R. Gore, M.A.
“Double, Double Toil and Trouble… Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble….”
Is this refrain from a chorus of California outraged citizens and lawmakers or could it be from William Shakespeare’s, Macbeth????
Well, my dear bloggers, I invite you to be the judge…..
Consider this…. We may have the makings of a witches brew for sure…
‘Just the Facts, Ma’am…(as reported by a variety of San Diego and Los Angeles new sources)
1) A well connected Governor on his way out who, along with increasing the State deficit by billions, was frequently “all show and little substance”;
2) A desire by a group of guys to party beyond their geographic confines of Sacramento fueled by alcohol;
3) The denial of entry into a fraternity party;
4) A 22 year old San Diego State University Student named Luis Santos is seemingly in the wrong place at the wrong time, the apartment of his cousin;
5) A fatal stabbing and wounding of three others occurs;
6) A young thug, Ryan Jett, who had previous felony convictions
and was on probation for having a sawed-off shotgun and possessing ammunition at the time of the killing;
and was on probation for having a sawed-off shotgun and possessing ammunition at the time of the killing;
7) The defendants originally charged with murder, assault, vandalism, conspiracy to commit an assault and conspiracy to destroy evidence. Had they been convicted, they both would have faced 25 years to life behind bars. Now a politically tied defendant may serve only 7 years;
8) A crime victims’ advocacy group called “Crime Victims United California” had the foresight and proactive style to file a civil law suit on behalf of the Santos family against Governor Schwarzenegger and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation;
9) The arrogance of a Governor clearly shone through by violating the family's constitutional rights under Marsy's Law by illegally commuting the sentence for Esteban Nunez from 16 years to 7 years on his last day in office;
(Fabian Nunez, a Democrat, served as Assembly speaker from 2004 to 2008. He is also a business partner of the governor's top political adviser at the consulting firm Mercury Public Affairs, according to the Los Angeles Times)
10) San Diego prosecutors state that they are unaware of any other case in which a defendant who entered a plea agreement later had his sentence reduced by commutation.
11) A prime opportunity to showcase Marsy’s Law exists;
(***Please refer to details regarding the 2008 California Marsy’s Law at the end of this blog….)
12) This victim’s family was never notified that a defendant’s original sentence was being commuted and found out via news reports, in direct violation of the California Constitution and statutory authority.
13) Family members of a former state assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez appeared to care only for the creature comforts of their felonious relative, Esteban, by sending him an electronic Kindle that was confiscated by prison staff;
14) A shocked San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis:"It re-victimizes Luis's family, his parents, it blindsided the District Attorney's Office, and it undermined the criminal justice system.”
"We wanted to make sure that crime victims and prosecutors are notified within a defined time frame when an application for commutation is made in the future," Dumanis said;
15) Another lawsuit may take place as District Attorney Dumanis said her office may also file a lawsuit in the matter.
16) The potential birth of new legislation Assembly Bill 648 by Assembly member Nathan Fletcher (AD-75) and Assembly member Marty Block
(AD-78) (As of February 18, 2011)
AB 648 would require that the applicant of a commutation notify the district attorney of the county where the conviction occurred of their intent to apply for a commutation, 30 days before the Governor acts. Current law only requires the district attorney to be notified in the case of a pardon.
The bill would also authorize the district attorney to submit a written recommendation to the Governor for or against a pardon or commutation of sentence. The bill would further require the district attorney to notify the victim of the crime and their family, and allow those individuals to submit a recommendation to the Governor for or against a pardon or commutation of sentence.
AB 648 requires a majority vote by both the Assembly and the Senate and Signature by the new Governor, Jerry Brown.
17) Judge Robert F. O’Neill told Nunez during sentencing that his actions after the crime showed a "callousness to human life -- evil."
18) Defendant Ryan Jett, at the time of sentencing tells the judge that “he will spend the rest of his life honoring Santos' memory.”
Details of the Case:
Just when we think we have a little piece of justice after the arduous investigative and judicial processes are completed, an outgoing Governor rips out the hearts of the Santos family of San Diego, (just like his Terminator character) for a political favor….
Kathy and Fred Santos are the bereaved parents of slain San Diego State University student Luis Santos. This tragedy occurred on October 22, 2008 when Luis was a 22 year old at San Diego Mesa College was targeted by four others.
A witness told detectives that Santos said carried a "piece" and wouldn't back down from anyone, and apparently the defendants' group overheard the remarks. After one of the victims cried out "I've been stabbed," Nunez was overheard to say, "Yeah, I got one of 'em," DiCarlo told the judge.
According to court testimony, Esteban Nunez and Ryan Jett, along with Raphael Garcia, traveled from Sacramento to San Diego to party and picked up Leshanor Thomas along the way. Witnesses testified they set upon Santos and several other people after they were denied entry to a fraternity party.
Two co-defendants, 20-year-old Rafael Garcia and 21-year-old Leshanor Thomas, pleaded guilty earlier to lesser charges.
Garcia, of Sacramento, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to destroy evidence and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution. He faced up to three years in prison at his June 24 sentencing.
Thomas, also from Sacramento, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit an assault and assault with a deadly weapon and faced nearly five years behind bars.
A judge last year found that Nunez, Garcia and Jett were "talking smack" and "looking for trouble" at the apartment of Garcia's cousin in the hours leading up to the fatal stabbing.
Defense attorneys contended their clients were acting in self-defense after a fight broke out. Santos was stabbed once in the heart," the prosecutor said, adding that the victims were unarmed. After the killing, the defendants drove back to Sacramento returned home burning their bloody clothes and threw their knives into a river.
"They're all principals," DiCarlo said. "It doesn't matter if one wasn't armed.
Jett's attorney, Terry Zimmerman, said her client believed he had to defend himself as the fight broke out. Zimmerman said both Santos and Jett were both good young men.
"This was a situational event fueled by alcohol," Zimmerman told the judge. "This was not a premeditated act."
"Had they not all acted together, Luis would still be alive," Deputy District Attorney Jill DiCarlo said. DiCarlo said the notion that Jett showed restraint by only stabbing Santos once was "absurd." Santos was fatally stabbed once in the heart," the prosecutor said, adding that the victims were unarmed. Garcia and Thomas pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
Defense attorney Brad Patton said Nunez's sentence was too harsh and Schwarzenegger's commutation corrected an injustice.
But Luis Santos' mother, Kathy, who lives in Concord, said Schwarzenegger's action was strictly a political act.
She said her son was “the entertainer in the family and a people-magnet."
"We had a perfect family of four," she told the defendants. "You stole a very important part of our family. I hope you will suffer forever more."
Fred Santos, father of Luis, said the bill is not intended to take away the governor's power to grant clemency in certain cases.
"We just want transparency, we want notification," he said. "Give everybody a chance to comment before a decision is made rather than doing this in a sneaky way like this was done."
Marsey’s Law: California’s Victims’ Bill of Rights
Marsy’s Law significantly expands the rights of victims in California. Under Marsy’s Law, the California Constitution article I, § 28, section (b) now provides victims with the following enumerated rights:
To be treated with fairness and respect for his or her privacy and dignity, and to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse, throughout the criminal or juvenile justice process.
To be reasonably protected from the defendant and persons acting on behalf of the defendant.
To have the safety of the victim and the victim’s family considered in fixing the amount of bail and release conditions for the defendant.
To prevent the disclosure of confidential information or records to the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant, which could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family or which disclose confidential communications made in the course of medical or counseling treatment, or which are otherwise privileged or confidential by law.
To refuse an interview, deposition, or discovery request by the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant, and to set reasonable conditions on the conduct of any such interview to which the victim consents.
To reasonable notice of and to reasonably confer with the prosecuting agency, upon request, regarding, the arrest of the defendant if known by the prosecutor, the charges filed, the determination whether to extradite the defendant, and, upon request, to be notified of and informed before any pretrial disposition of the case.
To reasonable notice of all public proceedings, including delinquency proceedings, upon request, at which the defendant and the prosecutor are entitled to be present and of all parole or other post-conviction release proceedings, and to be present at all such proceedings.
To be heard, upon request, at any proceeding, including any delinquency proceeding, involving a post-arrest release decision, plea, sentencing, post-conviction release decision, or any proceeding in which a right of the victim is at issue.
To a speedy trial and a prompt and final conclusion of the case and any related post-judgment proceedings.
To provide information to a probation department official conducting a pre-sentence investigation concerning the impact of the offense on the victim and the victim’s family and any sentencing recommendations before the sentencing of the defendant.
To receive, upon request, the pre-sentence report when available to the defendant, except for those portions made confidential by law.
To be informed, upon request, of the conviction, sentence, place and time of incarceration, or other disposition of the defendant, the scheduled release date of the defendant, and the release of or the escape by the defendant from custody.
It is the unequivocal intention of the People of the State of California that all persons who suffer losses as a result of criminal activity shall have the right to seek and secure restitution from the persons convicted of the crimes causing the losses they suffer.
Restitution shall be ordered from the convicted wrongdoer in every case, regardless of the sentence or disposition imposed, in which a crime victim suffers a loss.
All monetary payments, monies, and property collected from any person who has been ordered to make restitution shall be first applied to pay the amounts ordered as restitution to the victim.
To the prompt return of property when no longer needed as evidence.
To be informed of all parole procedures, to participate in the parole process, to provide information to the parole authority to be considered before the parole of the offender, and to be notified, upon request, of the parole or other release of the offender.
To have the safety of the victim, the victim’s family, and the general public considered before any parole or other post-judgment release decision is made.
To be informed of the rights enumerated in paragraphs (1) through (16).
As we stand by for the next chapter, will the Santos Family receive a little piece of justice that was stolen from them? I don’t know….
Double, Double Toil and Trouble… Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble….Governor Jerry Brown’s Contact information is:
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
Donna R. Gore, M.A.