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California family says son's killer could be set free because of decision by former governor Schwarzenegger

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, right, is pictured with Fabian Nuñez, left, a former California Assembly speaker, in an undated photo.

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, right, is pictured with Fabian Nuñez, left, a former California Assembly speaker, in an undated photo.  (AP)

A convicted murderer who is the son of a former California Assembly speaker could be freed from prison next year after former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced his sentence on his last day in office. 

Esteban Nuñez was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the stabbing death of 22-year-old Luis Santos, a Mesa College student, on the San Diego State University campus in October 2008. 

But on his last day as governor, Schwarzenegger, whose term ended in 2011, cut by more than half the sentence for his political ally's son, according to CBS affiliate KOVR.

"It’s just a bad dream. It's unbelievable that this could've happened," the victim's mother, Kathy Santos, told the station last month on the steps of the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento. "We’ve seen a lot and experienced a lot and don’t wish it on anybody."

According to court papers, Santos and his friends were involved in an unprovoked brawl on the San Diego State campus on an October night in 2008. Santos was stabbed in the heart and killed while his three friends were injured.

Nuñez, who was 21 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for his part in the crime and was sentenced to 16 years in state prison. Two years later, Schwarzenegger cut the jail time to seven years for Nuñez, the son of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, a Democrat from Los Angeles who served three terms in the California Assembly, two as speaker, and who reportedly worked at an influential lobbying firm during the murder trial.

Schwarzenegger's decision outraged prosecutors and the victim's parents, who argue Schwarzenegger violated Marcy's Law -- an assurance that victims and their families are given an opportunity to argue against commutations before a final decision is made, according to the state's constitution. 

At the time of the decision, Schwarzenegger reportedly called Nuñez's sentence "excessive" because he did not believe he inflicted the stab wound that killed Santos.

The state claims Schwarzenegger's commutation does not apply to Marcy's law and calls it a protected executive privilege, KOVR reported.

Schwarzenegger's decision means Esteben could be a free man in April 2016.

The court is expected to rule on the case in the next 90 days, according to the station. The Santos family told the station if the lose, they will argue their case before the California Supreme Court.

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