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Jerry Brown affirming more releases of killers than Schwarzenegger, Gray Davis

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012 - 1:00 pm

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is far more likely to allow the release of paroled killers from prison than either of California's two previous governors, newly released records show.

Brown let stand 331 of 405 – roughly 82 percent – of decisions to parole convicted killers by the state Board of Parole Hearings last year, according to an annual report to the Legislature released Tuesday.

By comparison, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger permitted the release of only about 27 percent of paroled killers, while Democratic Gov. Gray Davis' numbers were even lower – about 2 percent.

California's governor has a constitutional right to affirm, modify or reverse such parole board decisions. Brown reversed 71, modified one, and sent two back to the board to reconsider.

"Where he finds that an inmate continues to pose a threat to the public, he exercises his authority to block the board's grant of parole," said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown.

Chris Fowler, convicted in Yolo County of second-degree murder in 1983 for killing his girlfriend's 22-month-old son during a fit of rage, was one offender whose parole was overturned by Brown.

Though Fowler has an exemplary prison record of participation in education, ministry, self-help and Alcoholics Anonymous programs, Brown concluded that his crime was "appalling and senseless" and that no credible explanation had been offered for it.

"The utter inhumanity of Mr. Fowler's crime coupled with his inability or unwillingness to understand, own or achieve some credible level of insight tells me that there is substantial risk of danger to the public were he to be released from prison," Brown wrote.

Brown's lone parole modification last year involved a Garden Grove murder case in which Tung Nguyen had been given a release date of Aug. 12, 2023.

Brown concluded that Nguyen's "exceptional rehabilitation dictates that he should receive an immediate release on parole."

Nguyen had held a knife to one person and acted as a lookout during a fight between two groups of people that ended in one death.

In separate action, Brown pardoned 21 people who were released from prison more than a decade ago and have had clean criminal records since then.

Of Brown's 21 pardons, 17 involved drug offenses – marijuana was cited in six, cocaine in five, and methamphetamine in two. The other offenses were criminal conspiracy, receiving stolen property and two burglaries.

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