California governor pardons couple who lost home in Camp Fire

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) pardoned a couple for previous drug crimes weeks after their home burned down during a deadly wildfire that devastated the northern part of the state.

Brown issued a sweeping executive order on Monday that granted 143 pardons and 131 commutations. 

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Heather Steels Burnett was among those who were pardoned. Burnett was arrested 20 years ago and served a year in jail for possessing ephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Burnett, who has been a substance disorder counselor for 14 years, told the outlet that she has not used drugs or alcohol since the day she was taken into custody. 

Her husband, Jason Burnett, had his drug conviction pardoned last month on Thanksgiving, just weeks after their home was destroyed in the Camp Fire in Northern California.

The Burnetts' home in Paradise was destroyed, along with 14,000 other homes. The fire, which has since become the deadliest wildfire in a century, also killed at least 86 people.

Brown’s office said at the time that the wildfire played no role in the decision.

An employee in the governor’s office called the family to announce the news in time for Christmas, but the couple said it was hard to celebrate.

“We lost everything in the fires, so it’s been symbolic to be starting again in one way and to have the past not forgotten, but pardoned, in another,” Heather Burnett said. “It’s always been a dark spot when you’re trying to explain yourself to people.

Brown’s executive order also ordered new DNA forensic testing related to the quadruple murder case involving death row inmate, Kevin Cooper.

Cooper was convicted in 1985 of murdering Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old Jessica and 11-year-old neighbor Christoper Hughes. Josh Ryen, who was 8 at the time, was injured but survived the attack.

Brown, who is set to leave office, has set a record among California governors in recent history for granting the most clemencies — 1,189 pardons and 152 commutations, according to the Chronicle.

“Many people in today’s society do not believe in either forgiveness or redemption,” Brown told the newspaper. “They believe that what you do is who you are. That philosophy is not something that I share. I don’t think it’s Christian … and it does not comport with historical notions of justice.”