It’s still too early to tell if Governor Gavin Newsom marches to his own drum— or if his tenure coincides with Governor Brown’s agendas, reported Anita Chabria and Taryn Luna for the L.A. Times.
Since taking office Gov. Newsom has stopped 46 paroles for murderers. This marks a steep increase from the actions of former Gov. Jerry Brown, who only reversed 28 parole grants for murderers in 2018. Newsom is on pace to match Gov. Brown’s peak of 133 rever- sals in 2014, report Chabria and Luna.
This stands in stark contrast to Gov. Newsom’s controversial decision to halt executions, despite the will of California voters who rejected the ballot measure to abolish the death penalty in 2016.
Gov. Newsom also sought review by the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) of 33 parole grants given to those convicted of a serious felony such as a sex crime.
Trenton Veches was one of the 33 cases reviewed. Veches was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to two concurrent life terms for multiple counts of child molestation. Veches nevertheless won parole, re- port Chabria and Luna.
Gov. Newsom’s parole interventions have many questioning his policies and whether he’s trying to keep serious offenders in prison or just being cautious in lieu of his political future.
Veches’ attorney, Charles Carbone, wonders if Gov. Newsom’s actions represent a new policy or merely concern due to criminal justice reforms like Proposition 57.
In 2016, legislative changes, such as Proposition 57, and legal rulings added many new categories of crime to the list of those eligible for re- lease. Attorney Michael Ro- mano, who heads the Three Strikes Project at Stanford Law School, says, “There is an incredible backlog and bottleneck” when it comes to parole hearings, and Proposition 57 alone could add an- other 4,000 hearings to the BPH’s current case load.
One of the parole grants that Gov. Newsom reversed was for Jesus Cecena, 57, who killed Officer Archie Buggs in 1978. Cecena, who was 17 years old at the time, was sentenced to life with- out the possibility of parole. In 1982 the sentence was reduced to seven years to life. In Gov. Newsom’s decision he wrote, “Despite his many years of incarceration, Mr. Cecena has not sufficiently explained his callous actions on the night of the crime.”
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations, 15 of the 33 cases Gov. Newsom sought for reconsideration in- volved inmates with current or past sex offenses.
Only Gov. Newsom knows if he will follow Gov. Brown’s posture on parole or establish a stricter stance. Criminal justice reform advocates await indications of a clear philosophy. The optimism raised by Gov. Brown, however, gave inmates hope, and that hope motivated inmates to seek out rehabilitative programs and groups.