Santos v. BrownAnnotate this Case
Esteban Nunez aided in the killing of Luis Santos in 2008. The attack took place near the campus of San Diego State University. Among other acts of violence, one of Esteban Nunez’s cohorts stabbed Luis Santos in the chest severing an artery in his heart after which Luis Santos almost immediately bled to death. Pursuant to a plea agreement entered into on the eve of trial, Esteban Nunez pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of Luis Santos and pled guilty to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon arising from his having personally stabbed two other young men. In June 2010, he was sentenced to serve 16 years in prison. On January 2, 2011, his last day in office as Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger exercised his executive clemency power by commuting the prison sentence of Esteban Nunez from 16 years to seven years. The commutation came as a complete surprise to the crime victims and the prosecuting district attorney. Frederico and Kathy Santos, Luis' parents, were among those victims who sought to invalidate the commutation, arguing crime victims and district attorneys must receive notice and opportunity to be heard before a grant of executive clemency, pursuant to the Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008, also known as Marsy’s Law, adopted by voter initiative Proposition 9 in 2008, amending California Constitution, article I, section 28, and statutes. The trial court concluded Marsy’s Law did not apply to a Governor’s clemency decision and entered judgment on the pleadings in favor of defendants Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, its director Matthew Cate, and prison warden William Knipp. After review of the case, the Court of Appeal felt "compelled to conclude that, while Schwarzenegger’s conduct could be seen as deserving of censure and grossly unjust," it was not illegal. "Marsy’s Law, despite its obviously expansive protection of victims’ rights does not restrict the executive’s clemency powers under California Constitution, article V, section 8, subdivision (a) or the clemency statutes." The Court therefore affirmed the judgment.