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Tug-Of-War Over Parole For Convicted Killers Arises From Twist In California Law

Publication Date: 
January 20, 2011
Los Angeles Times
Jack Dolan

Executive Director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center Deborah Mukamal is quoted by the Los Angeles Times in the following story covering a California law changing the governor's power to reverse parole orders for convicted murderers:

Some 250 convicted killers went to court in California last year claiming former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger put politics ahead of the law when he blocked their parole — and based on other recent cases, scores of them are expected to prevail.

The action, which costs taxpayers million of dollars in legal fees and other expenses, stems from an unusual twist in state law: California has a professional parole board charged with deciding on inmates' release dates, but also gives the governor the power to overrule the board's decisions. Only four other states allow a similar tension.

DOCUMENTS: Report on Schwarzenegger's parole decisions


The 1988 ballot measure, approved the same year that Republican presidential nominee George H. W. Bush used an ad featuring furloughed killer Willie Horton to devastating effect against Democratic rival Michael Dukakis, gave California governors the right to reverse parole orders for convicted murderers. Only Maryland, Hawaii, Louisiana and Oklahoma have given their governors similar power, said Debbie Mukamal, a researcher at Stanford Law School.