SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Pete Wilson granted clemency Friday to two women who sought to have their prison terms commuted because they suffered from battered women's syndrome, a psychological malady that afflicts women frequently beaten by their spouses.
However, Wilson denied clemency to 14 other women who sought similar relief, saying that 'society simply cannot condone preventive murder or homicidal self help.'
Wilson said there was no 'question that domestic violence and the terrible physical and psychological suffering of its victims are tragic and serious problems.'
The governor said he believed society has not done enough to help victims of domestic violence, but that enduring such abuse was not a license to commit violent crimes.
The petitioners were among 34 who claimed their crimes ranging from child molestation to first-degree murder were the 'results of our having been battered by our husbands.'
Wilson said he denied the 14 cases because of a lack of credible evidence proving the crimes were related to past abuse.
The governor granted full executive clemency to Frances Mary Caccavale, 78, of Temple City. Caccavale stabbed her husband, Frank, to death as he was packing to leave her. The couple had been married for 49 years.
Wilson said he freed Caccavale because of her advanced age and failing health, not her petition as a victim of battered women's syndrome.
'Were it not for Ms. Caccavale's advanced years and deteriorated medical condition, she would be a poor candidate for clemency,' Wilson said. 'However, in light of the unique factors in her case...I am persuaded that clemency is appropriate.'
Wilson also granted partial clemency to Brenda Aris, 33, of Riverside, reducing her sentence from 15 years to life to 12 years to life. The reduction means Aris will be considered for parole at an earlier date.
Aris shot her husband, Rick, in 1986 as he slept. However, Wilson was moved to make his decision because of evidence of years of extreme physical and mental abuse. He also took into consideration evidence that Rick Aris had threatened to kill his wife and other family members if she left him.
'Although I cannot condone the killing, even of Rick Aris, and the choices made by Ms. Aris on that fatal night, I feel compassion for the woman who is before me today,' he said. 'Given the facts of the crime, I cannot excuse the full penalty the law enacts for the murder of a sleeping victim.'
Among the petitioners denied was Brenda Clubine, leader of the Frontera prison group called Convicted Women Against Abuse that launched the clemency drive.
Clubine, 42, is serving a prison term of 16 years to life for bludgeoning to death her drugged and semi-conscious husband of seven months in 1983 in Los Angeles County. While on trial, Clubine testified that she killed her husband, Robert, in anger for past treatment and not out of self-defense.
'The picture of Ms. Clubine at the time she killed Robert is not a portrait of a helpless and dependent victim of domestic violence,' he said. 'She apparently used the victim for her own selfish purposes, and I cannot excuse or forgive her for the murder of her husband.'
Thirty-four inmates at the California Institution for Women petitioned the governor for clemency March 13. In the petition, the women claimed their crimes were the result of being victims of spousal abuse.
Of the original 34, two women were freed on parole, two withdrew their requests and the remainder, with the exception of those whose cases the governor ruled on Friday, have their cases pending.