Friday, January 21, 2011
The family of a college student killed during a knife fight in San Diego is suing former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. They’re accusing him of violating their constitutional rights.
On his way out of office, Schwarzenegger cut the prison sentence for Esteban Nunez from 16 years to seven. He’s the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. Nunez pleaded guilty for his involvement in a knife fight that led to the death of 22-year old Luis Santos. Schwarzenegger did not notify Santos’ family – and that’s why his mother Kathy says they decided to sue the former Governor.
“Arnold Schwarzenegger underestimated us,” she said. “I think he believed that he could get away with this despicable commutation. He messed with the wrong family.”
Santos’ father Fred calls the commutation a “gross injustice” that was purely political.
“As victims, it’s tough enough that we have to deal with the horrible loss of our child, and then with politicians trying to do this to us, that makes it even more horrific than the original crime itself,” he said.
Nina Salarno Ashford is an attorney representing The Santos family. She said because of the voter-approved initiative known as “Marsy’s Law,” a victim’s family has the right to know about a commutation or pardon.
“We’re not saying he didn’t have a right to do a commutation, but he did have a duty to uphold the law, which clearly says this family, and including the district attorney’s office should have been noticed, should have been heard, all the evidence should have been laid out and it shouldn’t have been done in the eleventh hour when you’re leaving office and you don’t think you’re going to be held responsible,” Ashford said.
The Santos family wants the courts to re-instate Nunez’s original sentence of 16 years. When he granted the commutation, Schwarzenegger noted that Esteban Nunez had not inflicted the fatal knife wound and had no prior criminal record. A Schwarzenegger spokesman said the former Governor has no comment on the suit.