Then there's Willy Coria, who as a 16-year-old in 1993 sat in the back seat while older friends carried out a drive-by shooting on a crowd outside a Los Angeles liquor store, killing one woman. Prosecutors said the attack was Coria's idea; he claimed he didn't know there was a gun in the car.
His sentence was 16 years to life, and he had been in prison for 15 years when the former governor denied him parole.
Schwarzenegger acknowledged that Coria hadn't pulled the trigger but explained, "The crime partners fired into a crowd of people, placing multiple victims at risk of death or serious injury."
Attorneys who fight to get inmates out of prison are not surprised by Schwarzenegger's frequent decisions to keep people in. The former governor used that power to burnish a reputation as a hard-nosed law-and-order governor, they said.
Others worry that the appearance of favoritism in the Nuñez case will deepen cynicism about the criminal justice system.
"My first thought is that reducing Mr. Nuñez's sentence might have actually been the right thing to do, even if the governor did it for the wrong reasons," Wattley said. "My problem with it is that it makes even clearer to anyone still having doubts that politics dictates prison terms, not fairness or justice."