On Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom issued 20 acts of clemency for prisoners, including the commutation of a life sentence by a woman who murdered her stepfather in 1989.
In total, Governor Newsom pardoned 9 criminals, gave 10 COVID-19-related medical reprieves, and gave one commutation.
The 9 pardons issued all dealt with crimes in which the convict had served 10 years or less, with all being jailed for various lengths of time between 1985 and 2019. Among them were Jimmy Cha, who served for 5 years in the late 90’s for threatening four people with a gun in a restaurant parking lot and punching two of them, Josephine Edu, who served for seven years after fighting with her boss and cutting him with a piece of glass, and Robert Thies, who served for 10 years for most of the 90’s for 6 drug related charge, including manufacturing and possession.
Medical reprieves were also given by the Governor due to COVID, much like many of his previous reprieves from November of last year. As many prisoners have been vulnerable to COVID-19, half of Newsom’s clemencies issued on Friday were for this special designation. The medical reprieves, which will allow the prisoners to serve their sentences in an alternate location consistent with public health and public safety, were all for more major crimes, with each prisoner carrying a life sentence.
The medically reprieved includes 75-year-old Rickie Blue-Sky, who is currently serving 27-to-life for murder, 68-year-old Steven Franklin, who is serving 70-to-life for two counts of robbery as a third strike, and Douglas Aubineau, serving 108 years-to-life for three counts of robbery as a third strike and for carrying a dirk or dagger as a third strike.
The lone commutation signed by Newsom on Friday was for Teresa Paulinkonis, who had killed her step father in Alameda County in 1989. Sentenced to 25-to-life in 1992, the 57-year-old Paulinkonis has been in prison for over 30 years.
Governor Newsom wrote that not only was Paulinkonis a model prisoner, but that she worked to better herself while in prison and engaged in self-help programming.
“While in prison, Ms. Paulinkonis has worked hard to better herself,” said the Governor in his commutation letter on Friday. “Ms. Paulinkonis committed a crime that took a life of the victim. Since then she has dedicated herself to rehabilitation.”
Newsom concluded that, since she had committed the murder as a youth and has shown that she has shown positive strides, including earning a college degree and receiving the support of four prison officials, that she is ready to be released on parole.
72 pardons, 79 commutations from Newsom since 2019
Since coming into office in 2019, Newsom has, to date, issued a total of 72 pardons, 79 commutations and 20 medical reprieves.
While this is nowhere near former Governor Jerry Brown’s 2011-2019 figures of 143 pardons and 131 commutations, it s significantly more than former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s total of 15 pardons and former Governor Gray Davis’ total of 0 pardons.
“Reprieve’s are generally fine with victim’s families,” explained Gordon Vasquez, a former Sheriff’s Deputy who now assists victims’ families in keeping criminals seeking parole in jail, to the Globe. “As long as they’re in a prison. Others, like commutations, well, those aren’t received so well.
“This isn’t like previous clemency dumps where he set up parole for a lot more prisoners, but it’s still worrying that murderers and robbers who broke three strikes are getting leniency. For many victim’s families, their felling is that because they took a life, that their life should halt to. It doesn’t matter if they’re getting college degrees or being productive. They still did a terrible, irreversible thing to them.
“We do live in a country of second chances, but Newsom’s high level of clemencies worries a lot of people that he isn’t looking fully into each person wanting out sooner. It’s worrying.”
Gov. Newsom is expected to give additional clemencies later this year.