Inmates Convicted in Killings Get Sentences Commuted by California Gov. Gavin Newsom

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.
September 14, 2019 Updated: September 14, 2019

Twenty-one inmates, including a number convicted in killings, saw their sentences commuted by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Newsom’s office announced the commutations on Sept. 13.

Jacoby Felix, Crystal Jones, Andrew Crater, Maurice Nails, Luis Alberto Velez, and Marcus McJimpson were among those convicted in killings and serving life sentences in prison.

McJimpson was 21 when he shot dead two men during an argument in 1988, reported The Fresno Bee. McJimpson will be eligible for a parole hearing thanks to the commutation, with the parole board making the final determination as to whether to release him, as with the cases of the other inmates.

Last year, Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp sent a letter to the board’s senior investigator after becoming aware then-Gov. Jerry Brown was looking into McJimpson’s case.

Smittcamp said her office opposed McJimpson’s clemency “due to the serious and violent nature of the crimes he committed.” She sent a similar letter to Newsom last month.

“McJimpson shot … two men in their early 20s. When one did not die fast enough for him, McJimpson ran him over with his car. He is a cold and calculating murderer,” she wrote.

Epoch Times Photo
Inmates who were given commutation grants. TOP ROW: Alex Barajas (Santa Clara County), Jaime Cabrales (Los Angeles County), Cristina Chavez (Los Angeles County), Allen Burnett (Orange County), Andrew Crater (Sacramento County), Keefe Dashiell (Los Angeles County), Leonia Esteem (Riverside County); MIDDLE ROW: Jacoby Felix (Sacramento County), Dimitri Gales (Los Angeles County), Theodore Gray (Shasta County), Crystal Jones (Sacramento County), Marcus McJimpson (Fresno County), Adonis Muldrow (Santa Clara County), Maurice Nails (Alameda County); BOTTOM ROW: Alladin Pangilinan (Alameda County), Doris Roldan (Los Angeles County), Bryant Salas (Los Angeles County), Lazaro Tanori (Los Angeles County) Marsi Torres (Los Angeles County), Antonio Toy (Los Angeles County), Luis Velez (Sacramento County). (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via AP)

Newsom wrote in his decision to commute McJimpson (pdf) that he has received recognition from correctional staff for his “transformation in prison” and that the man “is sincerely remorseful for his crime.”

Velez was 26 when he killed an armed guard during a robbery in 1991, according to Newsom’s office.

Felix was 18 when he shot a man dead in 1993 during a carjacking after the driver of the car refused to hand it over.

Crater was convicted of first-degree murder for killing Jim Pantages, a musician, in 1995. Crater, who was 20 at the time, did not pull the trigger but supplied the gun, a car, and the plan for his partner, Thomas Robinson, who shot the gun. Both committed a string of armed robberies.

Jones stabbed a man during a drug-related crime, and his partner subsequently shot the man dead. He was 20 at the time of the 2001 crime.

Nails was 21 in 2007 when he shot dead a man after an altercation outside a nightclub.

Newsom praised all the inmates for self-growth and improvement in prison, arguing they have transformed themselves while incarcerated and that most committed the violent offenses when they were youths.

“The act of clemency for Mr. Felix does not minimize or forgive his conduct or the harm it caused,” the governor wrote about Felix. “It does recognize the work he has done since to transform himself.”

“Mr. Felix has shown a notable commitment to self-development and living a productive life despite serving a sentence with no expectation of release from prison,” the governor wrote. “Mr. Felix earned his GED and an associate degree in social science. He has participated in extensive self-help programming. Mr. Felix is currently working as a teacher’s aide and has facilitated several classes.”

While Felix committed “a senseless crime” when he was a teen, Newsom said, he “has shown sincere remorse for the crime” and “take[n] the necessary steps towards self-improvement and rehabilitation.”

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.