Former governor (and presumptive Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Jerry Brown pardoned more than 400 convicted criminals during his two terms in office from 1975 to 1983 – from those found guilty of murder and rape to scores locked up on lesser offenses, such as petty theft and check forgery.
We want you to help us figure out what happened to them. Here at California Watch, we’ve created a one-of-a-kind database of every pardoned criminal listed in Brown’s annual clemency reports to the state Legislature, which we obtained from the State Archives. You can search the database by the pardonee’s name, crime or county.
Clemency and pardons can be political minefields for former governors who aspire to higher office – or in Brown's case, an encore. Just ask Mike Huckabee or Michael Dukakis. Pardons for minor offenses are also excellent ways to help out friends and political allies. Arthur Alarcon, executive clemency secretary under Jerry Brown’s father, former Gov. Pat Brown, and one of Jerry Brown's judicial appointees, said in a 1988 oral-history interview that he was aware of several extradition cases made by Brown the Younger for political reasons, but did not elaborate.
“More recently, during Jerry Brown's term, there were two or three on political grounds, but I don't recall any requests that there should not be an extradition,” he said.
Of course, clemencies and pardons are an important part of a governor's authority. Newspapers are replete with stories of petty criminals being offered a second chance by benevolent politicians, and the judicial system needs stopgaps to guard against wrongful convictions.
Jerry Brown, 1978
So here’s the deal: You show us something worth checking out, and we’ll head down to the State Archives, request the whole clemency case file (we’re right down the street, after all) and write about our findings here on this site.
If you want to pull the files yourself, more power to you. But if you write a story or blog post about any findings based on our data, we’d just ask two things:
1. Show some love and credit us. Putting this thing together wasn’t easy.
2. Link back to the database if you can. The more people that see it, the better information we’ll all have.
We’ll be digging too. But we thought the collective wisdom of California’s politically engaged might spot some things that we would miss.
Using the database is easy. Just run your search here (leave all the fields blank and hit “Search” to see a complete list):
Then click the “Details” link on the far right side of the results page:
Then use the feedback form here to chip in your thoughts. Comments are anonymous, but leave your name and contact information in the text field if you wouldn't mind us getting in touch.
Good luck. If you have any questions, contact California Watch reporter Chase Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.