Days before Easter, Newsom announces dozens of pardons and commutations

(Courtesy of ear pressure)

Days before Easter, Newsom announces dozens of pardons and commutations

California Politics

Hannah Wiley
Taryn Luna

March 29, 2024

Days before Easter, California’s governor said. Gavin Newsom on Friday moved to commute sentences for 18 people, pardon 37 others and file a pardon application for award-winning San Quentin podcaster Earlonne Woods.

The filing is the first step in a longer process toward pardons that will require final approval from the state Supreme Court, which is necessary in cases involving people with more than one felony conviction.

Woods was sentenced to 31 years to life for his role in a 1997 armed robbery under the state’s tough “three strikes” law.

criminal act?

convictions when he was a teenager. Woods launched the podcast “Ear Hustle” from San Quentin State Prison in 2017. Morgan Freeman’s Revelations Entertainment is reportedly teaming up with “Ear Hustle” for an upcoming docuseries, according to Deadline.

State law does not allow Newsom to pardon or commute the sentences of anyone with more than one felony conviction without Supreme Court approval. Instead, Newsom submitted Woods’ request to the Board of Parole Hearings, which would first have to recommend the pardon to the court.

Former Governor Jerry Brown commuted Woods’ sentence in 2018, making him eligible for parole. Brown noted that prison staff and volunteers had praised Woods’ behavior and leadership among other inmates. After his release, Woods interviewed Brown for the podcast at the governor’s mansion in Sacramento.

I believe Earlonne will continue to educate, enlighten and enrich the lives of his colleagues at San Quentin and the many, many people who faithfully listen to “Ear Hustle,” Brown wrote in 2018.

Newsom also commuted the sentence of Rahsaan New York Thomas, a former San Quentin inmate and co-host of “Ear Hustle,” in January 2022. The parole board granted his parole in August and Thomas was released the following February.

His departure from San Quentin followed an investigation by The Times into dozens of people who remained in jail despite the governor’s mercy.

Rahsaan Thomas of ‘Ear Hustle’ was released from prison for a year after Newsom’s commutation. Newsom also posthumously pardoned

William Burwell

, who as a student at San Fernando Valley State College, now CSU Cal State Northridge, helped organize protests during the Civil Rights Movement. According to the governor’s office, Burwell was arrested and convicted of misdemeanor trespassing and failure to disperse during a racial justice protest on campus in 1969. The students eventually negotiated the creation of what would become the Africana Studies Department , of which Burwell was co-founder and later chairman. Burwell died in August 2022. “Dr. Burwell’s decades of work and contributions advancing equality and justice benefited countless students, faculty, the CSUN community and many others in California and beyond,” Newsom wrote in his pardon. “His visionary leadership will continue to serve as a legacy for generations to come.”

Anyone convicted of a crime in California can apply to the governor for a pardon or commutation.

A pardon restores some rights to former felons, such as the ability to serve on a jury or apply for a professional license. In limited cases, pardons can restore gun rights to those convicted of crimes that did not involve a dangerous weapon, or relieve sex offenders from the requirement to register.

Commutations reduce sentences and make criminals eligible for parole. Like Brown, Newsom’s commutations go to the parole board before an inmate is released. Newsom has issued a total of 181 pardons, 141 commutations and 40 deferrals during his time in office.

The governor’s office considers, among other things, the effect of a commutation or pardon on the community, the age and circumstances of the crime and sentence, self-development and rehabilitation, and the need for clemency.


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