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Sentence Reduction Controversy

Your browser does not support this object. View the original here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sh9P7GJ_8E

Video published January 7, 2011 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: San Diego legal leaders this week blasted a last minute decision made by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He reduced the sentence of Esteban Nunez, from 16 years to 7 years. Nunez, who pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter for his role in the stabbing death of a man near SDSU in 2008, is the son of former state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. Tony Perry, San Diego bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times, explains the reaction to the decision.

Guest

Tony Perry, San Diego Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

AS ED REPORTED THIS WEEK FORMER GOVERNOR ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER LEFT OFFICE AFTER COMPUTING THE PRISON SENTENCE OF A MAN FOUND DPIL TI OF INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER. WITH ME TO EXPLAIN THE REACTION IS THE SAN DIEGO BUREAU CHIEF'S TONY PERRY. WHY WAS NONEEZ SERVING TIME IN THE FIRST PLACE.

ONE NIGHT IN 2008 HE WAS PART OF A STREET BRAWL IN WHICH A 22-YEAR-OLD COLLEGE STUDENT LOUIE SANTOS WAS STABBED TO DEATH. ESTEBAN NONE -- NUNEASE WAS CHARGED WITH MURDER. ANOTHER FELLOW HAD TWO FELONY CONVICTIONS AND WAS ON PROBATION AND WAS THE PERSON WHO PLUNGED THE KNIFE INTO YOUNG SANTOS HART AND KILLED HIM. EACH OF THEM GOT THE SAME SENTENCE, 16 YEARS. NUNEZ FATHER, FABBIAN FELT THE JUDGE HAD PULLED A FAST ONE THAT HE HAD A CONVERSATION THAT IF HIS SON WOULD PLEAD TO VOL MANSLAUGHTER --VOLUNTARY MAN MANSLAUGHTER, THE SENTENCE WOULD BE SEVEN TO 11.

APPARENTLY NUNEZ CONVINCED THE GOVERNOR THAT WAS THE CASE. YET, THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY WATTS IN OPPOSITION TO REDUCING THE PRISON TIME FROM 16 TO SEVEN. WHY?

THE ISSUE OF WHETHER HE DESERVED THE SAME SENTENCE HAS JET IS IN THE APPELLATE COURT. FINE ATTORNEYS ON BOTH SIDES ARE WORKING AWAY ON IT. THAT'S NOW MOOT. THE GOVERNOR'S DECISION KILLS THAT OUT AND NOW THE SENTENCE IS SEVEN YEARS.

IT'S DEFINITE LIVE SEVEN YEARS.

DEFINITELY SEVEN YEARS.

BUT BONNIE'S OFFICE WAS NEVER CONSULTED.

NEVER CONSULTED. THE SANTOS FAMILY ALREADY AGREED WITH THE IDEA THAT NUNEZ AND JET WERE ALLOWED TO PLEAD TO MANSLAUGHTER INSTEAD OF MURDER. ALREADY AGREED. THE FIRST THEY HEARD OF IT WAS WHEN THE NEWSPAPER REPORTERS STARTED CALLING THEM ON SUNDAY NIGHT. IT WENT THROUGH THE SYSTEM LIKE A GREASED PIG. I MEAN, A VERY FINE APPELLATE ATTORNEY IN SAN DIEGO DID THE PAPERWORK FOR NUNEZ, SENT IT UP TO SACRAMENTO, AND THAT'S THE LAST HE HEARD OF IT. THEY NEVER ASKED FOR MORE PAPERWORK, ARGUMENT. NEVER CALLED HIM FOR BACK AND FORth, NEVER HAD TO BLUNT THE ARGUMENT OF THE OTHER SIDE.

YOU CAN SEE WHY BONNIE DUE MONEYS WOULD BE INVOLVED. JAN GOLD SMITH'S OFFICE WASN'T INVOLVED YET, SAID HE WAS APPALLED AND ANGRY.

THERE ARE TIMES PEOPLE HAVE TO STEP FORWARD AND GIVE US NOT ONLY THEIR LEGAL WHEREWITHAL BUT JUDGMENT. THIS IS THE KIND OF THING THAT TEARS DOWN RESPECT FOR THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM. A DEBATABLE POINT.

BUT THERE HAVE BEEN OTHER HEADS OF STATE, HEADS OF THE STATE OF --IN THE UNITED STATES, HEADS OF THE UNITED STATES LIKE THE PRESIDENT WHO HAVE OVERRULED THE JUDGES AND THE COURTS AND COMMUTED AND PAROLED.

AND THAT'S THE WAY THE SYSTEM IS MEANT TO WORK. THE EXECUTIVE IS MEANT TO HAVE THAT PRIVILEGE. CHRISTMAS PARDONS ARE NOAFNLT THE THING ISN'T THE FACTS OF THE CASE SO MUCH, WITH WHICH DIFFERING ATTORNEYS CAN AGREE OR WHETHER THE JUDGE DID PULL, FRANKLY, A FAST ONE. THAT'S THE KIND OF STUFF YOU FILE YOUR ARGUMENTS IN COURT AND THE JUDGES DECIDE. IT'S THE PROCESS, THE LAST MINUTE, THE FACT THAT THE D.A. WAS NOT NOTIFIED, THAT THE SANTOS FAMILY NEVER HEARD ABOUT IT. IF YOU LOOK AT ALL OF SWARTZ NEGER'S ACTIONS, THIS ONE STANDS OUT. THIS IS THE ONLY ONE.

WHAT REASON DID HE GIVE FOR THE COMMUTATION. DID HE SAY I'M REDUCING THIS BECAUSE --

THE ARGUMENT BEING MADE IN APPELLATE COURT THAT IT WAS UNFAIR TO GIVE YOUNG NUNEZ THE SAME 16-YEAR SENTENCE AS RYAN JET, WHO ACTUALLY STUCK THE KNIFE INTO THE HEART OF LOUIE SANTOS. THAT WAS OVERRULED BY THE JUDGE AND LATER CONTINUED TO BE OVERRULED IN ANOTHER HEARING. HE BELIEVED THAT IT WAS UNFAIR TO GIVE NUNEZ, WHO DID STAB A COUPLE OTHER PEOPLE, WAS WRONG TO GIVE HIM THE SAME SENTENCE AS RYAN JET WHO ACTUALLY KILLED SANTOS.

THE VICTIM'S FAMILY, SANTOS' FAMILY, THEY WERE PRETTY UPSET.

THEY WERE DEVASTATED. THIS IS FRED AND KATHY SANTOS. FRED IS A SOFTWARE ENGINEER. THEY HAVE BEEN VERY CANDID THROUGHOUT. THEY THOUGHT ALLOWING HIM, ESTEBAN TO PLEAD TO MANSLAUGHTER WAS A BREAK, THAT HE DIDN'T DESERVE AND PARTICULARLY FOR IT TO OCCUR IN THIS FASHION IN WHICH THEY WERE EXCLUDED. THE FIRST THEY TBHIEW IT WAS ONE SUNDAY --KNEW ABOUT IT WAS ONE SUNDAY WHEN SOMEONE CALLED THEM UP.

DO THEY HAVE ANY RECOURSE?

DOESN'T LOOK LIKE IT. IT ENDS AT THE GOVERNOR'S DESK. NOW WE HAVE A NEW GOVERNOR. IT WAS A LAST-MINUTE DEAL.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH, TONY PERRY.

MY PLEASURE.

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