The family of a Ceres man slain in 2005 are upset that his convicted killer, Sean Robert Benge, is seeking clemency from California Gov. Jerry Brown.
Felons in California prisons may apply to the governor for a pardon but they are rarely granted. John Goold of the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office said the local office has noted an increase in clemency requests, likely because Brown is nearing the end of his term as governor. Brown has granted 1,186 pardons since returning to the governor’s office in 2011 and granted 404 during his first two terms as governor. Most of the pardons have been for drug-related or other non-violent crimes.
Steven Glenn Brown, 45, was found shot to death inside his rural Ceres home in the 6900 block of Crows Landing Road on Jan. 4, 2005. In 2008 Sean Benge was convicted of first-degree murder conviction with a special circumstance, lying in wait, which requires a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He is incarcerated at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla.
Benge’s application for clemency has triggered the local district attorney’s office to respond. The law also calls for the victim’s family to be notified of the application.
“As a prosecutor I’m always concerned so that’s why we are taking steps,” said Goold.
The news has sent shock through the Brown family.
“The public needs to know that he does not need to be on the street,” said Diana Brown McGill, sister of Steven Brown. “Our family is super upset. He wants to erase the murder of my brother.
“Our mother found him with his heart blown out and his head blown off by a shotgun. He has four beautiful grandchildren who will never see their grandfather again because of Sean Berge. This guy, after 13 years, has the audacity to ask Gov. Brown for clemency? Forgive me, no, no, no. Ceres doesn’t need this. Steven Brown was a hard-working family man.”
Brown’s body was discovered by his 12-year-old daughter when she came home from school.
A Stanislaus County jury decided in November 2008 that Benge killed Brown, a 1977 Ceres High graduate. The guilty verdict against Sean Benge of Turlock was half of a double-trial which two separate juries heard evidence in one courtroom. Another jury decided the fate of Benge’s uncle, Jerry Benge, 49, who allegedly ordered the attack. Prosecutors presented a case that Jerry Benge, who was married, wanted Brown out of the way because he was romantically pursuing Brown’s wife, Katherine Brown.
The jury found Benge guilty of lying in wait during the murder, a special circumstance that caused Benge to receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
During the trial, public defender, Maureen Keller, suggested that her client Sean Benge was guilty of attacking Brown for the intent of only roughing him up, but that things got ugly. She urged the jury to explore the voluntary manslaughter charge with its lesser sentence. Keller suggested that Sean Benge was vulnerable because of a sense of loyalty and obligation to his uncle and his weakened state of drug addiction.
But Carolyn Matzger, deputy district attorney, said there was intent to kill as Sean Benge was practicing with a shotgun before the attack.