Saturday, May 27, 2017

New York: O'Hara Turns the Tables

The New York Law Journal reports that Brooklyn attorney John O'Hara:
... the first person charged with illegal voting since 1873, when Susan B. Anthony cast a vote before women were legally allowed to do so, has over the past several years been reinstated to the bar and had his name cleared. Now O'Hara is setting his sights on a new challenge: He wants to lead a slate of insurgent candidates to run this year in the Democratic primary for open seats on the bench in Brooklyn Civil Court. 
O'Hara, who says he can "bring a perspective to the bench that no one else brings,” quips, “Better to be a judge than be judged."

Readers of the blog are aware that O'Hara was indicted on the illegal voting charge in 1996, but reinstated to the bar in 2009. His conviction was then thrown out. See previous posts here.

O'Hara will file papers to become a candidate and needs at least 4,000 valid signatures on a petition. See story here.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Maine: 17 Commutations of Sentence

McClatchy report Gov. Paul LePage has granted "conditional commutation orders for 17 prisoners through a plan that he says will help offenders get jobs and won't threaten public safety." The idea is applauded by the ACLU of Maine and "state prisoner advocates."

Some Republicans see it as a "soft on crime" ploy and "part of an effort to close a long-embattled Washington County minimum-security prison." McClatchy reports:
Alison Beyea, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, called LePage's decision "a positive step toward ending Maine's over-reliance on incarceration." Her group notes that census figures show that Maine's state prison population has increased nearly 300 percent since 1980, while the overall state population has grown 18 percent. "In Maine, like the rest of the nation, we lock up too many people for too long, at too great a human and fiscal cost," she said. She added, "in order for this effort to be truly successful though, we will need a thoughtful plan to ensure formerly incarcerated people can successfully transition back to society." That means more job training and education, she said, as well as "finding employers who are willing to hire people once they are released." 
See story here.

Illinois: Five Pardons

Gov. Bruce Rauner has granted 5 petitions for clemency and denied 197 others. The grants involved "attempted burglary, theft and drug charges." Per usual, "each [recipient] has undergone a background check." Rauner says he has "eliminated a backlog of thousands of clemency requests inherited under previous governors" - largely by rejecting them. See story here.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Gianforte, Quists, and "Little Hitler."

An excerpt from Pardon Me, Mr. President: Adventures in Crime, Politics and Mercy, P.S. Ruckman, Jr., forthcoming.

When Francis Shoemaker of Minnesota ran for Congress in the late 1920s, the world of political campaigns was forever changed. The man who was proud of the fact that his education had not been “retarded” by public schools was one to decorate public speeches with profanity and animated floor-spitting. He was inclined to label his political opponents as “rodents,” “jellyfish,” “alley rats” and “ravenous fiends.” For special critics, he reserved “looting, thieving liars,” the name “Judas” and the color “yellow.”

Shoemaker raided the classrooms of the very high schools his mother would not let him attend, distributing campaign literature and screaming this and that until he had to be physically removed. When one Matt Quist expressed his own opinion about the fine details in a Shoemaker campaign speech, he was unceremoniously knocked unconscious … by the speaker.

Shoemaker once addressed a letter to a Minnesota banker whom he labeled (on the outside of the envelope) a “Robber of Orphans and Widows.” The banker’s mailing address was identified as the “Temple of Greed and Chicanery.” U.S. Attorney General William D. Mitchell decided the inscription was “scurrilous” and “defamatory” and a violation of federal law. District Court Judge John B. Sanborn agreed and on December 22, 1930, he gave Shoemaker a suspended sentence of one year and one day in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth. Shoemaker was also fined $500 and warned by Judge Sanborn that he would be “watched closely in the future.”

Despite Sanborn’s leniency and strict tone, Shoemaker wrote a scathing review of his own trial in a subsequent edition of Organized Farmer. The angry judge thus reinstated the sentence on December 29 and Shoemaker was (in his own words) “railroaded” to the penitentiary. At one point during the term, Judge Sanborn actually supported an early release for parole but changed his mind. Shoemaker (prisoner no. 38163) was eventually released in November of 1931.

In May of 1932, Shoemaker announced his candidacy for the Seventy-fourth Congress. There would be an at-large election in Minnesota that year, so the top nine vote-getters would be seated. Shoemaker finished eighth and promptly started setting up district offices. He also ordered special license plates bearing his prison number and tried, unsuccessfully, to have his prison record inserted into his Congressional Directory biography.

Some, however, were generally wary of the idea of seating an ex-convict in Congress. Indeed, Representatives Albert Carter (R-Cal.), Robert Luce (R-Mass.) and Alfred Bulwinkle (D-N.C.) recommended caution in the matter and called for an investigation by a House committee. Shoemaker’s defenders argued the crime that he had committed was not really all that serious and that a felony under federal law was not necessarily a felony under Minnesota state law. Some speakers stood on the House floor and waxed eloquent on such topics as “crooked bankers,” “flat-headed judges” and “little district attorneys” who always seemed to have a way of doing the “wrong thing.” For style points, one speaker loudly asked House members if they wanted to “debar a man for defending orphans and widows.”

The vote was not immediately taken, but Shoemaker was reported to have smiled “in appreciation” of the “oratory” delivered on his behalf. On March 10, 1933, an overwhelming majority of the House of Representatives voted to seat him. Christian Century applauded both the decision of the House and the “unholy pride” that Shoemaker had in his criminal record. He had, after all, not been found guilty of a crime involving “moral turpitude.” As far as the periodical was concerned, the current number of “prominent” bankers who were under indictment at the time for “various forms of betrayal of trust” strongly suggested there were “too many” bankers who really were “robbers of orphans and widows.”

But now, looking back, well after the fact, it is difficult to withhold praise for the intuition of Representatives Carter, Luce and Bulwinkle.

In little over a month, the ex-convict Congressman punched a neighbor in the face because he (the neighbor) refused to turn off a radio. Shoemaker later explained his actions by noting that he had “sick people” in his family and the neighbors had been partying for three straight nights. He found particularly annoying the constant singing of the wildly popular barbershop quartet hit, “Sweet Adeline.” Shoemaker told reporters that he was approached by the neighbor “in a threatening manner” but, afterward, was gentlemanly enough to fetch a doctor to “sew up” the fellow’s eye.

The neighbor, one Theodore Cohen, saw things differently. He claimed Shoemaker first called him on the phone and cussed him. Shoemaker then came into Cohen’s apartment with the announcement that he was a “hard-boiled” man and the “only ex-convict in Congress.” According to Cohen, Shoemaker yelled out that he knew how to “handle” Jews as he was “another Hitler.”

Shoemaker made a faint attempt to look more “congressional” two days later by standing on the floor of the House and calling for the creation of a special committee and an “investigation” of “revolutionary plotting against the government of Cuba.” Shoemaker’s formal resolution noted New Jersey “underworld characters” were heading toward the island. He also expressed great distress that public attention was being distracted from the matter.

Representatives Carter, Luce and Bulwinkle were probably not too terribly impressed.

Three days later, Shoemaker was dealing with the distraction of an assault charge. On April 24, he pled not guilty and demanded a jury trial. The New York Times reported Shoemaker had disregarded “the advice of many colleagues” in doing so.

But Franklin D. Roosevelt was so impressed by Shoemaker’s story and his clear progress toward rehabilitation and reform that he granted a full and unconditional pardon for the crime that had been committed four years earlier. In addition, the President’s July 9 clemency warrant remitted Judge Sanborn’s $500 fine. Time magazine also reported that Roosevelt pardoned Shoemaker’s personal secretary, a former acquaintance at Leavenworth. Shoemaker bragged, “Not only am I the only ex-convict in Congress, but the only man to emerge from the White House with two pardons as well.”

Roosevelt’s clemency decision settled the protest against Shoemaker’s election once and for all and the recipient quipped – at every opportunity - “I go from the penitentiary to Congress, not like a great many congressmen who go from Congress to the penitentiary.”   But, one month after Roosevelt’s pardon, some had to wonder if Francis Shoemaker’s career path was something more akin to a revolving door. The Minnesota congressman angrily confronted laborers in front of his hotel one morning because they were using various torches and lanterns. By the time the discussion was over, Shoemaker personally smashed six lanterns and found himself arrested. He was later released, and the charges were dropped.

1934 was a banner year for the pardoned ex-convict-congressman. In March, Shoemaker was arrested and charged with assaulting one Charles Newman, a “diminutive” cab driver. Newman claimed the congressman rammed his car while it was sitting at a red light. Shoemaker then supposedly threatened his life, cursed him and beat him up. Indeed, a policeman quoted Shoemaker as saying, “Yes, I hit him and I’ll kill him.” The warrant for the congressman’s arrest was served right outside his suite in the House Office Building.

Shoemaker’s initial court appearance set the tone for a case that would drag on for months. The Times reported the congressman insisted on parking his car right in front of the court building “in defiance of police orders.” When he was told to move the vehicle, Shoemaker responded, “I can park where I want to. I’m a congressman.” Inside the building, Shoemaker managed to obtain a one-week postponement of his assault trial by complaining to the judge that he was unable to find a lawyer. As the postponement was granted, he learned that the cab driver (Newman) would also be suing him for $100,000.

Shoemaker’s legendary sense of focus could not have been more evident the following day, when he formally threw his name in the hat for a seat in the United States Senate. Representatives Carter, Luce and Bulwinkle may not have been amused.

In preparation for trial, Shoemaker stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and impeached Joseph W. Molyneaux, a federal judge in his own state. Some newspapers sarcastically labeled Shoemaker “Solon” in their headlines. But the “fighting” Congressman was not joking. He said Molyneaux was “crazy” and “not in his right mind.” He said the judge has also “discredited the judiciary” and called for an investigation.

The assault trial resulted in a hung jury and a new trial was scheduled for May. That was also about the time when three motorists in Minneapolis claimed their own congressman damaged their cars in hit-and-run chases. Ralph Jacobson said Shoemaker rammed his car twice from behind and broke his bumper. Jacobson claimed Shoemaker then sped away from the scene of the accident. W.L. McComber claimed that he agreed to help Jacobson catch Shoemaker in an automobile chase. The two men managed to stop the congressman and demand an explanation for his actions. But Shoemaker simply took advantage of the fact that they were out of their automobiles and sped away, damaging the cars of two other individuals in the process. At the police station, Shoemaker explained that the men were “impeding” his “progress” and that he just gave their automobiles a “jar” to “take them out of the way.” He added that he had not “hurt their cars any.”

On May 21, 16 policemen and 19 strikers were hospitalized in Minneapolis when violence broke out during a truck deliverers’ strike. Several truckloads of produce charged into a blockage of six to seven thousand strikers, and hundreds of police were called to the scene. C. Arthur Lyman was beaten and later died of a fractured skull. More than forty others suffered “minor hurts” from rocks, ice, “crude clubs” and iron pipes. Seventy-five people were arrested in relation to the day’s activities, and among them was Rep. Francis H. Shoemaker.

The distinguished congressman from Minnesota was seen stomping through the crowd “without tie or coat,” chanting and carrying a broom handle. When authorities asked him to “move on” from a particular spot, Shoemaker responded, “You can’t make me move.” Shoemaker told the Associated Press that he was acting “in the public interest” when he was arrested for the fourth time and that he had actually taken the broom handle from a striker so “he wouldn’t start any trouble.” Shoemaker also complained that he was “manhandled” by police and that his injuries would require treatment from a physician.

Looking very congressional, Shoemaker made public a telegram that he had personally sent to President Roosevelt. It spoke of commercial transportation, committee meetings, and arbitration, but said nothing of the riots, the violence, his most recent arrest or the broom handle.

Representatives Carter, Luce and Bulwinkle may have been skeptical.

Shoemaker’s service in the public interest and incomparably heroic update to the President did not fend off a conviction for “disorderly conduct.” Judge Fred B. Wright sentenced him to 10 days in the municipal workhouse or a fine of $50. The sentence was stayed, however, in consideration of Shoemaker’s bid for a seat in the Senate.

On the first day of the following month, Minneapolis Traffic Judge W. C. Larson found Shoemaker guilty of “failing to stop after an accident.” The punishment was 30 days in the workhouse or a fine of $75. In his pronouncement of sentence, Larson also seemed to take issue with Congressman Shoemaker’s general car parking hypothesis, stating that an individual’s “social or political position” made “no difference” in traffic court.

Despite his various arrests, Shoemaker imagined himself a suitable opponent for incumbent Senator Henrik Shipstead. But Shipstead won the primary vote by a margin of three to one. Whatever one might say of Francis Shoemaker, there was little doubt that he was a man of deep-seated, unyielding political conviction and not a “quitter.” His four subsequent attempts at re-election (as a Farm Laborite, an Independent, a Democrat and a Republican) also failed.

July of 1934 brought a summons and complaint in a divorce action filed by Mrs. Lydgia Shoemaker. In the complaint, the former congressman’s wife hurled the preposterous charge that she had been subject to “cruel and inhumane treatment.” Judge Byron B. Park fell for it, however, as Shoemaker did not contest the divorce and was not represented in court. Judge Park granted the divorce in August, ordered alimony payments of $200 a month, and had this advice for Shoemaker’s ex-wife: “If I were you I wouldn’t work.”

Can Trump Pardon Himself?

The Editor has long thought that Prof. Kalt's discussion on the topic of self-pardons is the best - it is summarized in a previous blog post here.

The Washington Post has now written on the topic here.

Here is the full content of the e-mail that the Editor sent to the Post when consulted on the topic. 
I would add (although Kalt might not agree so much) that Supreme Court jurisprudence has always assumed a dichotomy - the granter and the recipient. Indeed, pardons have been revoked on the premise that they had not been accepted by (or had not been delivered to) the intended recipient. Similarly, commutations have been voided because the intended recipient did not accept attached conditions. This happened once to Obama. So, I would say that, with this assumed dynamic. the granter accepting clemency from himself is nonsensical. There is no "acceptance" in that scenario, in any sense of the language.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Virginia: McAuliffe Does What Presidents Have Done. Many Times.

Lilian Cruz Mendez (from El Salvador) was stopped for a broken taillight and convicted of a driving infraction in 2013. On May 18, during a "routine check-in with ICE officials," she was detained. Governor Terry McAuliffe has since announced that he has pardoned her for the “minor driving offense” and that he hopes the pardon will end any effort to have her face federal deportation proceedings. Says McAuliffe, “While this pardon will not necessarily ensure that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agrees to return Ms. Mendez to her husband and two children, I hope it will send a clear message that tearing this family apart will not make our Commonwealth or our country safer.” He added, “If President Trump and his administration are serious about making our nation safer, they will release Ms. Mendez, focus their immigration enforcement efforts on legitimate threats to our public safety and get behind the comprehensive immigration reform our nation needs.” See story here.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Colorado: Illegal Pardon?

Gov. Hickenlooper
The Colorado Statesman reports that George Brauchler, district attorney for the 18th Judicial District (CO) believes Gov. John Hickenlooper has granted an illegal pardon. The pardon was granted to one Rene Lima-Marin, a man who faces deportation after being freed him from State prison. As it happens, Brauchler is also "a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in next year’s election,"

Brauchler claims there are several statutory requirements the governor must meet before granting a pardon:
"There must be an application for a pardon, and that application must be provided by the governor’s office to the current district attorney, the prosecutor who initially prosecuted the applicant, and the sentencing judge ... We never, ever received an application for a pardon. Never ... We never had the victims consulted about a pardon. We never had input with the governor about a pardon. I was caught completely unaware the governor was considering a pardon. ... Seven years must have elapsed since completion of sentence ... In this case, it wasn’t even seven days since he’d been released from custody.”
Brauchler also notes Hickenlooper has numerous applications for pardons and sentence commutations approved by the governor’s Executive Clemency Advisory Board. But Hickenlooper has taken no action on them. “Where are they?” Brauchler asked. “They all complied with the law.”

State Sen. Owen Hill, who sponsored legislation last month calling on Hickenlooper to grant clemency to Lima-Marin, says “Reuniting Rene with his family is the right thing to do for him, his wife and his children,” State Sen. Dominick Moreno adds, “The governor’s authority to pardon Mr. Lima-Marin is pretty clear from my point of view,” State Rep. Joe Salazar is confused as to why Brauchler even cares. "Seems to me that once the judge freed Lima-Marin, Brauchler became irrelevant,”

The Statesman observes "the state constitution gives Colorado’s governor nearly limitless authority to grant reprieves, clemency and pardons — except in cases of treason." But, in 1978, "a state appeals court decision that ruled a 1978 pardon invalid because it hadn’t been issued in accordance with state law and the established procedures."

Hickenlooper has only granted clemency twice in his more than six years in office. His immediate predecessor, Democrat Bill Ritter, pardoned 42 in a single term. Bill Owens granted 13 pardons across eight years in office. Roy Romer granted more than 50 over the 12 years, and Dick Lamm granted more than 150 in the same period of time. See story here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

DOJ Appeal of Delay / Obstruction ... Delayed

Department of Justice's "appeal" of the bureaucrat William N. Taylor II's / Office of the Pardon Attorney's two years of delays / obstruction of FOIA requests right on track ... at least by DOJ standards.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

South Dakota: Paperless Clemency Proces

The Associated Press reports that South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard (R) has "launched a pardon website for people to go online to seek clemency."  The governor says the State is the first "to have an online, paperless pardon process" which will "make government more efficient." In sharp contrast, at the federal level, a "new electronic filing system" has made the Office of the Pardon Attorney (Department of Justice) less efficient. The website "offers a guided, interactive process" and is "mobile-friendly," so applications can be made on phones. See complete story here.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Just Cause: Clemency






















A JUST CAUSE : Bringing the Message of Justice Around the World!

"Clemency: Process of Injustice in America" on tonight's AJCRadio Show!

Tonight our AJC Radio Hosts will discuss the Clemency process and how it is often being denied to help right grave injustices being adjudicated daily against American citizens all over the United States. Click the link below to hear the show from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm MST tonight:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ajcradiospotlight/2017/05/03/a-just-cause--clemency-process-of-injustice-in-america-1

Call in to Comment at(646) 200-0628

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Oklahoma: 4 Commutations for LWOP

Gov. Mary Fallin
NewsOK reports Gov. Mary Fallin has commuted the sentences of four Oklahoma inmates "serving life without parole for drug offenses." The effect is that the men now have "the potential" to "one day to be paroled."

59-year old William Dufries was convicted for carrying 67 pounds of marijuana in a recreational vehicle 14 years ago.  36-year old Michael Randolph, is also a nonviolent drug offender serving a life sentence.  76-year old K.O. Cooper, convicted in 2012, "is believed to be the oldest inmate serving life without parole for drug-related crimes in Oklahoma." Kevin Martin and Jesse Rose (55 and 58) also had their sentences commuted. According to NewsOK:
There are still 52 inmates in Oklahoma serving life without parole for drug offenses, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections inmate database. A change in Oklahoma law in 2015 did away with mandatory life sentencing for drug trafficking after two previous felony drug convictions, but the new law was not retroactive. Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, has authored a bill under consideration in the Legislature this session that would allow nonviolent offenders sentenced to life without parole to have their sentences modified after 10 years in prison. Senate Bill 689 has passed preliminary votes in the House and Senate but final legislative action remains to be taken. 
See full story here.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Norman Brown. We LOVE him !

Norman Brown
We think the world of Norman Brown and congratulate him on this write up in today's Washington Post. His thoughtfulness, sincerity and ability to articulate difficult, sometimes deep, painful thoughts and emotions seem to make his potential for good almost limitless. That's why we so hope that he gets every break that he can get in this life, that he will get the attention that he deserves and that he will always be provided with the platform(s) needed to share his compelling story, and to educate and inform. See Post article here. It is a great read, about a man with so much potential.

Montana: Headlines v. Intelligent Understanding

Gov. Bullock
The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA) cannot help itself. "Montana Governor Grants Clemency to Man Convicted of Rape" is such a great headline. It catches the eye. It sells papers. It is the kind of headline that Governors loathe. Consequently, it is the kind of headline that keeps people in jails and prisons who belong elsewhere, and allows the cloud of post-conviction to hang over the heads of persons who have "served their time" (if they ever even had any) and prolongs and intensifies their efforts to reincorporate into society as law-abiding, productive citizens.

The Governor has pardoned a rapist ! OMG !

As it turns out, the conviction was over two decades ago, when Russell Foster was 19-years old and his "victim" was 15. Both Foster and his "victim" said the crime was actually consensual. What is more, after Foster was released from prison, they married (now for 17 years) and now have four children together. That's why the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole was smart enough to recommend clemency. How utterly stupid it would have been for Governor Steve Bullock to act otherwise!

So, what's with the headline? Why not these kinds of headlines:

Governor Follows Board Recommendation

Mercy Well Deserved

Clemency Sees What Law Cannot

Board, Governor Pursue Justice

Board, Governor Temper Justice with Mercy / Common Sense

See story here.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Time Out for Some Blues

The Atlanta Allstars (one utterly amazing, entertaining band) invited 13-year old Chris Ruckman to the stage last weekend, in Nashville. It was a completely unrehearsed, impromptu affair. And, as you will see, pure magic !


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Most of Obama's Commutees Still in Prison

Click on Image (Above) to Enlarge

Monday, April 17, 2017

Obama's OPA. Still the House of "No"

We now learn that President Obama left behind 11,371 applications for pardons and commutations of sentence. Currently, President Trump has not appointed a U.S. Pardon Attorney, so Obama's OPA is essentially still in place. The result? 600 new petitions for commutation of sentence and 752 commutation applications tanked ("closed") by OPA. Did Obama reinvigorate clemency?


Sunday, April 16, 2017

California: Notable Pardons, for Deportees

The Times of San Diego notes Governor Brown has granted pardons to three veterans who were deported:

Erasmo Apodaca, an honorably discharged U.S. Marine, was convicted of burglary (for breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s house). After serving one year of his sentence, and being released early for good behavior, he was deported.

Marco Antonio Chavez Medina served honorably for four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, but was convicted of animal cruelty in 1998. He served 15 months of his prison sentence and was released early for good behavior. In 2002, an immigration judge categorized his offense as an “aggravated felony” and he was deported to Mexico.

Hector Barajas  served with the 82nd Airborne during Operation Desert Storm and was honorably discharged. But, as a civilian, he struggled with substance abuse and "a conviction for being in a car when a firearm was discharged." That got him two years in prison and deportation to Mexico.

The Times quotes someone as saying, "It’s the first time a governor has recognized and taken action to help deported veterans." If so, it would be a sad thing indeed. Historically, presidents have granted clemency with some frequency to persons to prevent / counteract deportation. And there is certainly no reason to expect that veterans have been / should be systematically excluded from those exercises. See full story here.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

California: 72 Pardons, 7 Commutations

The  L.A. Times reports Governor Brown has continued "his tradition of considering the requests of felons for a second chance both at Christmas and Easter" by granting 72 pardons and 7 commutations of sentence. The Times notes "the bulk" of the grants were for "nonviolent drug crimes." One commutation of sentence will result in immediate release. The other six involve a "chance" to be released from prison by the State Board of Parole Hearings. See story here.

Criminal Justice Debt Reform Builder


Overview: Criminal justice debt – the system of fees and fines in the criminal justice system – has serious consequences. The Criminal Justice Debt Reform Builder brings transparency to this area of significant legal complexity: it gives easier access to state laws that govern criminal justice debt and suggests policy solutions through the Criminal Justice Policy Program’s Confronting Criminal Justice Debt: A Guide for Policy Reform. The Reform Builder and Policy Guide are organized into the following reform areas:

1. Ability to Pay
2. Conflicts of Interest
3. Poverty Penalties and Poverty Traps
4. Transparency

National Comparison : Hover over a state on the map to see key criminal justice debt metrics. Currently the map is color-coded by the number of fees and surcharges. Click to navigate to a state summary page with additional statistics, queries into the full law database, and details about our methodology.

State Analysis: Knowing where to begin can be overwhelming: each state has dozens – if not hundreds – of relevant laws governing criminal justice debt. The cards below provide state-specific facts about the operation of criminal justice debt and a number of suggested queries into the Law Explorer so that you may begin to research.

Law Explorer: Search across all of the laws in the states, or through topic-specific tabs.

Reform Builder: A shareable space for users to collect, analyze, and compare laws, and to consider policy alternatives.

The Criminal Justice Debt Reform Builder is a project of the National Criminal Justice Debt Initiative of the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School in collaboration with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and with user experience design by metaLAB (at) Harvard. The Criminal Justice Policy Program (CJPP) at Harvard Law School conducts research and advocacy to support criminal justice reform. It generates legal and policy analysis designed to serve advocates and policymakers throughout the country, convenes diverse stakeholders to diagnose problems and chart concrete reforms, and collaborates with government agencies to pilot and implement policy initiatives. CJPP’s National Criminal Justice Debt Initiative aims to help bring about major reforms in the way that jurisdictions around the country impose and collect fees and fines in the criminal justice system. For more information, please visit cjpp.law.harvard.edu. Thanks to Ted Grajeda from the Noun Project for the icons.

Friday, April 14, 2017

New Jersey: Commutation of Sentence

Eyewitness News ABC7 notes Governor Christie has granted a commutation of sentence to "a decorated Marine veteran facing a mandatory three years behind bars on a gun charge." Marine Sergeant Hisashi Pompey's conviction stands, but the penalty is gone.
To combat gang violence, New Jersey lawmakers several years ago tacked on mandatory sentences for gun-related offenses. And even though Pompey's firearm was legal, it wasn't registered in New Jersey. The law has been updated to exclude service members, but it didn't apply retroactively to Pompey's case ... Six years ago during a visit to New Jersey, Pompey was at a Fort Lee nightclub when his friend got involved in a fight and grabbed Pompey's gun out of his holster and carried it into a confrontation with police. No shots were fired, and the friend was arrested. But so was Pompey. While his gun was legally registered in Virginia, he had no New Jersey permit and was charged with unlawful possession of a handgun ... Pompey had lost an appeal and was set to surrender to authorities next week, meaning his only hope was with Governor Christie, whom Pompey had petitioned for a pardon. 
Because his weapons charge fell under the state's Graves Act, the judge had no discretion in the sentencing. See full story here.

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