A Concord family is fighting back against a reduced punishment for a man involved in the killing of their son, filing a lawsuit Thursday against the state and Arnold Schwarzenegger that argues the former governor illegally commuted the sentence of one of the attackers.
During his last hours in office, Schwarzenegger commuted the sentence of Esteban Núñez, the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez. Esteban Núñez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and other charges in the fatal stabbing of Luis Santos. Schwarzenegger reduced Esteban Núñez's sentence from 16 years in prison to seven years.
The Santos family filed the suit against Schwarzenegger and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in Sacramento County Superior Court, alleging that Schwarzenegger violated the state Constitution. The family wants Núñez's original sentence reinstated.
Kathy Santos, the mother of the murder victim, told reporters at a news conference that her family is "not well connected, politically powerful or wealthy, but we will not stop fighting for our legal rights and we will not stop fighting for our son Luis."
Fred Santos, the young man's father, said that after the sentencing in 2010 his family had hoped the new year would allow them to begin to move past the crime. "But boy, were we ever wrong about that," he said, calling the commutation a political favor.
"By commuting the sentence of one of our son's killers, Arnold Schwarzenegger committed a gross injustice," Santos said.
Specifically, the Santos family is claiming Schwarzenegger violated provisions of Proposition 9, also known as Marsy's Law, passed by voters in 2008, that amended the Constitution to provide greater rights for victims of crime. They allege Schwarzenegger failed to notify, involve and consider the victims of the crime, which is mandated under Prop. 9, prior to commuting Núñez's sentence.
The suit also cites provisions in the proposition - now part of the state Constitution - that call for people convicted of crimes to suffer the sentence imposed on them by courts.
Luis Santos' parents, who live in Concord, have said they were never notified that Núñez's sentence was commuted - and learned about the former governor's move through news reporters. Schwarzenegger later sent a letter apologizing to the Santoses for not informing them of his decision.