Rosario Munoz has been imprisoned 17 years for killing her husband’s lover. Jeri Becker has been behind bars 23 years for helping her abusive husband cover up his murder of a drug dealer. New California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has paroled both. His predecessor, Gray Davis, disappointed many advocates for battered women by refusing to shorten their time in prison, even though the parole board recommended they be freed.
Schwarzenegger has denied parole to other women who killed their abuser. Olivia Wang, a lawyer for Free Battered Women, a San Francisco-based group that provides legal services for battered women in prison, hopes that Schwarzenegger will look closely at their cases when they come up for parole. Under fire for sexual misconduct during his years as a movie star and bodybuilder, he has pledged to be sensitive to women’s causes.
California is one of three states where the governor can overrule decisions by the Board of Prison Terms, which decides who gets paroled. During his five-year tenure, Davis released only eight murder convicts that the board had approved for release. He denied parole for nearly 300 others. Nearly 600 women are in California prisons for killing or helping kill their abusers, says Free Battered Women.
Schwarzenegger’s aides have said that the new governor planned to go along with most of the nine-member Board of Prison Term’s decisions, except in cases of clear error. But his decisions thus far suggest otherwise. He has overruled the parole board’s decision to free 11 prisoners.