Man serving life for ’88 Fresno double murder granted clemency by Gov. Newsom

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

A 52-year-old man who had been serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for two Fresno murders was among 21 inmates granted clemency Friday by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Marcus McJimpson was 21 when he fatally shot Vernon Clark and Scott Walker in Fresno during an altercation in 1988.

While incarcerated, McJimpson helped start the Paws for Life dog training program, and has “lived on an honor yard since 2012,” according to the governor’s office.

Most recently, McJimpson had been serving his sentence at California State Prison, Los Angeles County.

Newsom’s commutation will make McJimpson eligible for a parole hearing. The board will determine whether it’s safe for him to be released into the community.

“This grant acknowledges Mr. McJimpson’s self-development efforts in prison, his good prospects for successful community reentry, and the fact he was a youth offender,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

In July 1990, a Fresno County Superior Court jury found McJimpson guilty of two counts of first-degree murder for the killing of Clark and Walker. McJimpson had been free on bail for a similar shooting in Los Angeles, where he is from, when he fatally shot the two men in Fresno.

He was arrested in Los Angeles four months after the fatal Fresno shootings in May 1988.

In October 1990, the attorney representing McJimpson had sought to overturn his conviction alleging the judge and jurors had acted inappropriately during the trial.

McJimpson’s bid for a new trial wasn’t successful and he was sentenced to two life terms in prison without the possibility of parole.

Fresno County District Attorney Lisa A. Smittcamp on May 24, 2018 sent a letter to Board of Parole Hearing’s senior investigator Carl Wofford after becoming aware former Gov. Jerry Brown was looking into McJimpson’s case.

In the letter, Smittcamp expressed her office’s opposition for McJimpson’s clemency “due to the serious and violent nature of the crimes he committed.”

Her office later learned Newsom was also looking into the case. In a Aug. 28 letter to Newsom, Smittcamp reaffirmed her office’s opposition on clemency for McJimpson.

“In the intervening year since our letter was sent, our position has not changed regarding the heinousness of McJimpson’s crimes or the appropriateness of his sentence of life without the possibility of parole,” she wrote in the letter. “McJimpson shot ... two men in their early twenties. When one did not die fast enough for him, McJimpson ran him over with his car. He is a cold and calculating murder.”

The 21 inmates were serving time for a range of crimes. Many committed the crimes when they were 26 or younger.

One offender was 15 when the crime was committed, and another is now an 80-year-old woman in a wheelchair.

The inmates granted the commutations took part in rehabilitative programs in prison, the governor’s office said. Those programs included training rescue dogs for veterans and providing hospice care to fellow inmates.

Some of the other inmates granted clemency include Andrew Crater from Sacramento, who was 21 when he participated in a robberies in 1995 that left a victim dead. Jacoby Felix, also from Sacramento, was 18 in 1993 when he fatally shot a man in the process of stealing his car.

Crystal Jones, from Sacramento, was 20 years old when he was involved in a murder in 1999. Luis Velez, also from Sacramento, was 26 when he killed an armed transport guard during a robbery, and has served more than 28 years in prison.

Yesenia Amaro covers immigration and diverse communities for The Fresno Bee. She previously worked for the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia and the Las Vegas Review-Journal in Nevada. She recently received the 2018 Journalistic Integrity award from the CACJ. In 2015, she won the Outstanding Journalist of the Year Award from the Nevada Press Association, and also received the Community Service Award.