Thursday, July 24, 2014

Judicial Watch Pardon Suit: Our UpBeat View

The following excerpted statement can be found at Judicial Watch. Our commentary on the statement can be found in red:

HEADLINE: Judicial Watch Sues Justice Department for Records on Obama's Massive Effort to Grant Clemency to Criminals: Uh, yes, historically, pardons have been granted to persons who have committed crimes. Obama Administration Unprecedented Clemency Initiative Yes, this is the first time in history that a president, named "Obama" has taken an interest in clemency. But sleezy media shock effect of the use of the word "unprecedented" doesn't go much further. Our guess is that the person who wrote this could not comment - intelligently - for 30 minutes on the history of the pardon power. Could Free More Than 20,000 Convicted Felons From Federal Prisons

... The Clemency Project supports an initiative announced by the DOJ in April that would empower President Obama to grant mass clemency to as many as 20,000 convicted felons now serving time for drug-related sentences. BS flag must be thrown. The Constitution of the United States empowers the president to grant pardons, not a DOJ announcement. 

... On April 23, 2014, Deputy Attorney James Cole announced the Obama clemency initiative saying it would encourage federal inmates sentenced under what he termed "out-of-date laws" Both Democrats and Republicans, in the House and the Senate considered the laws "out of date" and cemented their opinions by passing news laws which overturned them to petition to have their sentences "commuted, or reduced, by the President of the United States." the power of commutation having been exercised - in effect, or explicitly - by every president since the administration of George Washington The clemency initiative is part of the Obama administration's effort to end alleged racial discrimination in drug-related sentences. It started with the 2010 signing of the Fair Sentencing Act, which for the first time in decades relaxed drug-crime sentences. The measure severely weakened a decades-old law enacted during the crack cocaine epidemic that ravaged urban communities nationwide in the 1980s. Are we to infer that Judicial Watch does not believe Congress has the power to write laws?

... In announcing the administration's clemency initiative, Cole acknowledged the role of "numerous groups and individual attorneys" who had been working with DOJ to free the convicted drug offenders: Yes, it is true, no one can free those who have not been convicted, and imprisoned. 

... Cole's statement also included an announcement that DOJ Pardon Attorney Ron Rodgers had abruptly resigned his position. "Abruptly" - but only if you are as poorly informed as the writer of this announcement. Rodgers had been the focus of sharp criticism for years. Many were mystified as to why Obama retained him to begin with. He was, after all, George W. Bush's appointee. Judicial Watch may be aware that, as a candidate, Mr. Obama was sharply critical of both Mr. Bush and federal drug sentencing laws. In addition, as most informed persons are aware, in recent years, presidents have generally selected their own person for this position. Of course, Judicial Watch knows zip about all of that. Though Cole characterized the Rodgers resignation as "in the tradition" of senior executive service attorneys who ask for reassignment, there was some indication that it may have come about as a result of Rodger's disagreement with the Obama clemency initiative. Rodgers, who is known for his opposition to clemency requests Did Judicial Watch just say a former pardon attorney was "known for his opposition to clemency requests?" Wow! There's a stellar qualification for the position! Alexander Hamilton argued, in the Federalist Papers, that there should be "easy" access to mercy. But, somehow, we had a pardon attorney "known for his opposition to clemency requests." Did Judicial Watch investigate that guy? Why not?  was replaced by Deborah Leff, who worked with the Access to Justice Initiative, a DOJ agency aiding low-income defendants in court. According to the liberal publication The American Prospect: "For those hoping to see a robust clemency push, her background bodes well." According to the American publication, the Federalist Papers, "easy access" would be good. 

Historically, the power to reduce sentences and grant pardons has been used on a case-by-case basis. True, but stupid, at least if, by saying "historically," the author means "most of the time." It is true that most exercises of the pardon power have been individual acts of clemency. But it is no less true that group pardons (or amnesties) are also a great American tradition, dating back to the Washington administration. See our post on numerous other mass clemencies by several presidents here. During his presidency, George W. Bush granted only 11 sentence commutations, while Bill Clinton granted a total of 61. LBJ granted over 200. For considerable portions of American history, presidents granted more commutations than they did pardons. What's the point? Robert Weisberg, a law professor at Stanford University and co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, questions whether the Obama clemency move rightly falls under the Executive Branch, Nothing personal, but we are aware of no scholarship by Prof. Weisberg on the subject of clemency "Although it's being done through the pardon power, it really is a kind of administrative action to make some of the newer laws retroactive...It's almost as if they have to invent their own kind of shadow sentencing guidelines and in effect re-sentence certain people." How silly. The project is not sentencing anyone. The persons that they seek to help have already been sentenced. 

Certain members of Congress are also balking at the Obama clemency initiative, with Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), stating, "While the pardon power has been interpreted broadly, the Framers never intended for it to be used in this manner. Rather, they intended for it to be used on a limited, case-by-case basis to correct injustice, not to be a tool for the administration to rewrite or even eliminate laws passed by Congress." Re the pardon power, Senator Sessions is a blithering idiot. He cannot support his position with a postage stamp's worth of evidence from the "Founding Fathers." Thomas Jefferson - considered by many to be a Founding Father - thought the Alien Sedition Acts were unconstitutional. He promised, if elected, to pardon anyone who was still being punished by them. He kept his promise and emptied the prisons. We repeat: Sessions is an idiot.  Thankfully, when George Washington dealt with the Whiskey Rebellion and John Adams dealt with Fries's Rebellion, fools like Sessions were not in the U.S. Senate. Someone buy the man a high school history book before he forms his next stupid opinion!
...

Judicial Watch Files Suit Against the Pardon Power

The following statement can be found at Judicial Watch:

Judicial Watch Sues Justice Department for Records on Obama's Massive Effort to Grant Clemency to Criminals: Obama Administration Unprecedented Clemency Initiative Could Free More Than 20,000 Convicted Felons From Federal Prisons

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - Jul 23, 2014) - Judicial Watch announced today that on June 23, 2014, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) to obtain records of communication between the office of Deputy Attorney General James Cole and Federal Defenders: the ACLU, FAMM, the ABA, and NACCL relating to the organizations' "Clemency Project 2014" (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No. 1:14-cv-01048)). The Clemency Project supports an initiative announced by the DOJ in April that would empower President Obama to grant mass clemency to as many as 20,000 convicted felons now serving time for drug-related sentences.

The FOIA lawsuit filed pursuant to a March 10, 2014, FOIA request seeks the following:

Any and all records of communications between employees or officials of the Office of Deputy Attorney General James Cole and representatives of the Federal Defenders, the ACLU, FAMM, the ABA, and NACDL related to, or in connection with or regarding the 'Clemency Project 2014' from January 1, 2014 to the present date.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mississippi: Effect of a Pardon?

The Hattiesburg American reports that the State's Supreme Court is being asked "to determine whether a pardon by the governor should be grounds to wipe clean a criminal record." Rebecca Hentz, pardoned by Gov. Haley Barbour in 2012, thinks the answer is / should be "yes" and asked a County judge to "expunge her criminal record." The request was denied. Mississippi law does allow for expunction of criminal records "under limited circumstances." See full story here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Calling for Mercy: At the President's Door.

The Houston Chronicle has a great piece from the Associated Press re one Scott Walker, sent to prison at age 25 (almost 18 years ago) to serve out a life sentence.  The "kingpin" and supplier of drugs in Walker's case, "a two-time drug felon," knew how to play the system. He "cooperated" and testified against Walker and served about five years.

In July, Walker's lawyers submitted an application for federal executive clemency to President Obama. In the letter, they noted Walker "meets all six criteria for possible release" identified by the Department of Justice in recent announcements regarding commutations of sentence. In days to come, the President may see thousands of such applications.

For ignorant persons likely to be swayed by the mere claim that clemency would overturn the considered judgement of judges and juries, and that the president should not interfere with the decision making of the judicial branch: Walker's trial judge - Judge J. Phil Gilbert, an appointee of President George H. W. Bush - is also urging the president to commute the sentence to 20 years. Gilbert called the sentence that he was forced to impose on Walker (because of sentencing guidelines since rejected by both parties, in both the House and the Senate, back in 2010) "excessive and disproportionate."

The article also contains a brief, but excellent history of federal legislation regarding sentencing in drug cases. See full article here.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Obama Administration: Making More History

In the first 9 months of fiscal year 2014, the Obama administration has received a record 5,228 petitions for commutation of sentence. The number of pardon applications is much lower (178), but may be in line with previous years once the year is up.

Click on Image (above) to Enlarge

President
Granted Pardon Applications
Granted Commutation Applications
All Applications
Nixon
1 in every 2
1 in every 15
1 in every 3
Ford
1 in every 3
1 in every 25
1 in every 4
Carter
1 in every 3
1 in every 36
1 in every 5
Reagan
1 in every 5
1 in every 100
1 in every 8
H.W. Bush
1 in every 10
1 in every 245
1 in every 19
Clinton
1 in every 5
1 in every 90
1 in every 16
W. Bush
1 in every 13
1 in every 779
1 in every 55
Obama
1 in every 32
1 in every 1,371
1 in every 249



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Registration Open for Clemency Project 2014

Registration is now open for attorneys who would like the training necessary to participate in Clemency Project 2014.

The training webinar takes place July 15 and 16, and interested attorneys must participate both days in order to file petitions through the Clemency Project. This training is free. Follow the instructions after clicking on this link.

Interested attorneys who don’t have an account with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers will be asked to created one in order to register.

Be sure to complete the Attorney Survey so Clemency Project 2014 can match your expertise with an applicant.

Not an attorney, but want to help? Volunteers can express their interest by emailing ClemencyProject@nacdl.org with “Non-lawyer volunteer” in the subject line.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Ohio: Kasich's Record

Ohio Governor, John Kasich
Cleveland.com reports governor, John Kasich "has been much more sparing than his predecessor in granting clemencies to criminals, approving less than 5 percent of requests and releasing no one from prison." On the other hand, "when it comes to death-row cases, Kasich has granted more clemencies since taking office in 2011 than all other governors of death-penalty states combined."

The story says Kasich's 4.7 percent "clemency approval rate" is "comparable to that of other recent Republican Ohio governors," but "about five times lower than that of his immediate predecessor, Democrat Ted Strickland."

Here are the data:

48 pardoned
6 commutations of sentence
5 reprieves

35 committed offenses so minor no jail time was involved
48 of recipients committed offenses before 2000

1,184 rejected clemency requests
(including 86 cases in which the Ohio Parole Record recommended leniency)

See full story here.

Friday, June 27, 2014

American Thinker's Jon Hall = Not So Thoughtful

Jon Hall at American Thinker has a piece titled , "Restoring Constitutional Government." Among other things, he writes:
One of the places where presidential power could be curbed is the pardon. America has an entire branch of government devoted to ascertaining guilt and innocence, and the determinations of such are the result of the collective wisdom of judges and juries. To have those decisions and the entire judicial process nullified by any one person is too much, especially if that person is not above using power for purely political purposes, or whose judgment has been shown by recent events to be sorely under par. 
Even before Obama, the power of the pardon was abused, as in the case of the FALN terrorists pardoned by Clinton. The only iteration of the word“pardon” in the entirety of the Constitution is in Article II, Section 2, Paragraph 1: “The President […] shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”  
 In Federalist No. 74, “The Command of the Military and Naval Forces, and the Pardoning Power of the Executive,” Alexander Hamilton presents the original reasoning behind vesting this power solely in the president. 
And, well, if we have ever seen a less thoughtful discussion of the topic ... at present ... we cannot remember when!

It is, of course, supremely ironic that a piece on "Constitutional Government" would ignore some of the strongest, most prominent features of constitutional government: separation of powers and checks and balances. The pursuit of justice is a three-branch enterprise, quite contrary to Mr. Hall's personal predilection for judicial monarchy. The legislative branch writes criminal laws. The judicial branch interprets / applies them. And, on the theory that those branches are less than perfect (something Mr. Hall may contest), the executive branch has the pardon power. This is not complex stuff. Someone had to have taught it to Mr. Hall, somewhere along the way.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ohio: The Effect of a Pardon?

The Supreme Court of the State of Ohio will be considering the case of James Radcliff who, according to the Columbus Dispatch, has "led a good life after a felony-filled span as a youth and young man." According to the Dispatch:
He cared for a disabled wife and five children, was active in his church and rose to become a janitorial supervisor in 21 years working for the Dublin schools. Then, Radcliff was fired when his criminal background was exposed in a story by a weekly newspaper about school employees with checkered pasts. He was reduced to part-time jobs washing dishes and sweeping floors. Shortly before leaving office, former Gov. Ted Strickland pardoned Radcliff in January 2011. A Franklin County judge expunged his convictions, concealing them — for the moment — from public view, reasoning that the action should pair with a pardon. The Ohio Supreme Court is to hear arguments on Tuesday on whether courts have authority to seal conviction records when Ohio governors forgive felons for their pasts.
Radcliff’s public defender says a pardon means little if criminal convictions remain "a mouse-click away."  A Franklin County Prosecutor disagrees, however.  An appellate court has overruled the trial judge because there are not provisions in Ohio law that explicitly allow the sealing of such records. See story here.

California: The Pardon Guy

The L.A. Times has an interesting piece on one 77 year old John Garbin, a.k.a. "the pardon guy" (or the "certificate of rehabilitation guy." Garbin says, "We do not live in a forgiving society." The Times says Garbin, a senior paralegal in the public defender's office, has spent "the last two decades answering about 1,000 calls a year from felons, most of them drug offenders."
He digs into each one's history to confirm they have gone straight for at least seven years (about 5% to 10% fall short). Then he works to persuade a judge to grant them a wider path back into society. His success rate is an astounding 95%. Such a certificate doesn't erase the past, but it does restore some of the civil rights lost upon conviction. It also serves as an automatic application for a governor's pardon, the ultimate badge of rehabilitation. With Gov. Jerry Brown granting clemency more often than his recent predecessors, more people are flocking to Garbin for a shot at their governor's pardon. For them, Garbin often seems their only hope. 
The piece also reports that over the 20 years Schwarzenegger, Gray Davis and Pete Wilson served "only 29 pardons had been granted." Jerry Brown has granted 375 since taking office in 2011. Garbin takes credit for 41 of them. See story here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Colorado: Clemency Disaster

Gov. John Hickenlooper
We refer our readers to this intriguing post by Alan Prendergast, at Denver Westwood Blogs. It focuses on Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's shameful record on clemency.

Prendergast argues the clemency process has been "increasingly politicized and "used less and less" since Governor John Love "granted more than 200 pardons in his ten years on the job." Prendergast says, afterward, Governors Bill Owens and Bill Ritter then "squeezed out only a handful of pardons and commutations." Nonetheless, Owens and Ritter "seem like reckless bleeding hearts"in comparison to Governor Hickenlooper, "who has not granted any requests for pardons or sentence reductions since taking office in 2011."

Prendergast notes Hickenlooper actually issued an executive order in 2012, "reauthorizing" the State's Executive Clemency Advisory Board. Yet, he hasn't "got around" to appointing anyone to actually serve on the board! The Board is also supposed to meet every six months, but a spokesman says it has not met since "sometime in 2012."

The same spokesman says the Governor is "currently recruiting new board members" though and "holding" pardon and commutation requests meanwhile. Prendergast explains that Hickenlooper's neglect of duty may be the result of criticism he received when he granted a reprieve from execution he granted last year. Constitutional duty and mercy can, apparently wait, until the Governor is over it.

Readers may be interested in this post by Prenderghast as well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why You Should Bookmark the PardonPower Blog

Visitor 335,159 today, Executive Office of the President of the United States (one of our 'regulars' - see list of recent Notable Visitors in lower right sidebar):

Click on image (above) to enlarge.

Wisconsin: The Costs (Foolishness) of Walker's Neglect.

Scott "No Mercy" Walker
Gov. Scott Walker has made his position on executive clemency clear. The State Constitution explicitly invites the governor to participate in popular American notion of "checks and balances" by providing him with the pardon power - a power many other Wisconsin governors have used, repeatedly, and without much controversy. But, to all of that, Walker says, "Whatever."

Governor Walker further justifies this statesmanlike stance by arguing that doing justice in one case might require him to consider justice in another case - something for which he, apparently, has neither time nor interest.

Too bad for people like Jessica Cranfield. Channel 3000.com reports that, when she was 17 years old, Cranfield "committed a number of crimes, including stealing a purse and clearing a bank account of $100 to buy drugs." The result was a prison sentence of two years. Now, almost 30 years old, Cranfield is married, with children, and working toward a bachelor's degree in education. She hasn't had a brush with the law since she was a 17 year old kid.

No matter. As she notes, "It's very difficult to get a job if you have any type of criminal conviction ... but a felony basically guarantees that you won't." Governor Walker's view of persons like her?
"No, they can get jobs, they just can't get jobs in an area that prevents them access because of their felony conviction ... But they are not limited in other ways." 
It just goes to show that one can never overestimate the patently ridiculous nature of Scott Walker's position on clemency. See story here.

Administration Sends Mixed Signals on Sentencing, Mercy

The Hill reports President Obama "will meet Wednesday morning with members of the U.S. Sentencing Commission" as the administration "pushes forward with a review of the presidential clemency system that could lead to the release of thousands of prisoners."

On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the administration was "moving swiftly to put this clemency project into effect" by establishing "an extensive screening mechanism" and beginning the process of "engaging assistance from pro bono attorneys." He also says the administration will "continue to consult with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and trial judge who handled each original case – so we can evaluate clemency applications in the appropriate context."

But The Hill notes additional commentary that confuses the sharp ear. For example:
The White House has said that while it will press forward with its clemency review, it prefers that those "serving unfairly long sentences under outdated guidelines" be freed through congressional action, rather than presidential decree. "The clemency process is not an appropriate vehicle to address that injustice in a comprehensive way," Carney said. "That should be done through bipartisan legislation like the measures currently working their way through Congress. And as you know, this is an issue on which there is a bipartisan coalition that believes actions needs to be taken, and there are measures in Congress that reflect that."
Indeed, there may very well be a preference for congressional action, so responsibility and potential criticism (both fair and unfair) can be effectively diluted via dispersion. But, we respectfully disagree with the notion that clemency is, in any sense of the language, an inappropriate tool to remedy injustices. To the contrary, the clemency power is an entirely appropriate device to address long-standing error and injustice resulting from the legislative process. It is a check and balance explicitly provided to the executive branch, by the Constitution, for such purposes.

Yes, the president should use that power cautiously, and thoughtfully, but without apology. Congress has had its way, on the issue of mandatory sentencing, for more than three decades, and the results have, at least arguably, been nothing short of disastrous. See story here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Military Mercy Revisited

In honor of William Otis' prognostication that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will be pardoned, we repost and amend from June 17, 2009. Here are some classic instances of federal executive clemency on behalf of members of the military.

(Click on the name associated with each entry to see additional information):

2000 - Preston King (draft evasion)
1999 - Henry Flipper (first posthumous presidential pardon, charged with embezzlement, first African-America USMA graduate)
1999 - Freddie Meeks (mutiny, Port Chicago incident)
1965 - Carl H. Buck - last known pardon for innocence (charged with theft)
1960, 1977 - Maurice Schick (murder, case to Supreme Court)
1950 - Leon Gilbert (insubordination, cowardice, 600,000 supporters!)
1945 - A Christmas amnesty to thousands of convicts who served honorably in the War
1945 - Sidney Shapiro (formally charged with obstruction of justice one hour before trial)
1944 - General Robert C. Richardson (charged with contempt, preemptive pardon)
1921 - Chaplain Franz J. Feinler (treason and propaganda)
1918 - Houston Rioters (riot, murder)
1913 - Thomas Franklin (financial irregularities, West Point treasurer)
1907 - John L. Lennon (AWOL, nephew of famous boxer, John L. Sullivan)
1900 - Admiral Bowman H. McCalla (had a thing for cruel and unusual punishments)
1890 - Dell P. Wild (refused to do "menial" work)
1890 - Lewis Carter (assault, robbery, desertion and a 99-year sentence)
1883 - John A. Mason (attempted to assassinate Garfield's assassin, Guiteau)
1882 - Fitz John Porter (disobeying an order, misconduct - blamed for Union loss at Bull Run)
1860 - Aaron Dwight Stevens (riot, assault, later one of John Brown's "officers")
1848 - General John C. Fremont (mutiny, declined pardon and resigned, aka "the Pathfinder")
1814 - General William Hull (surrendered Fort Detroit to British without a fight!)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Otis: Obama Will Pardon Bergdahl

The Editor of this blog (P.S. Ruckman, Jr.) will go to his grave believing that he and William Otis were the only two persons in this world worth listening to when it came to prognostication re Scooter Libby. The media were fixated on the entirely fictitious view that President Bush had to pardon Libby, or Libby would find himself in prison. The Editor, however, pointed out, in National Review, that there were, in fact several other options, and a respite was among them. Otis noted, in the Washington Post, that a commutation of sentence could be issued as well. Libby's sentence was commuted.

So, when Otis speaks, PardonPower listens.

Today, Otis notes Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl "voluntarily left his post after becoming disillusioned with what he viewed as the enormous damage the United States had done to Afghanistan."  He also notes that the President's "supporters" tell us "if Bergdahl deserted -- or even became a collaborator -- we have the military justice system that will, at the right time, fully investigate the matter, put the facts on the table, and, if warranted, impose punishment."

But, Otis announces: "it's not gonna happen." No, he says there will be no "honest investigation" much less any "punishment." Instead, President Obama will issue "a preemptive pardon" because he "doesn't see that much wrong with Sgt. Bergdahl's view of the matter."

Otis finds evidence of this forthcoming pardon in rhetoric which emphasizes a so-called "rush to judgment" - a prelude to the desire to  put all "whipped up (Obama's exact phrase) unpleasantness behind us and move on."

Otis' post even contains an entertaining message which might accompany such a pardon. In his view, such a pardon would capture "several of Obama's hallmarks -- opportunism burlesquing compassion; politics impersonating statesmanship; evasion supplanting accountability; contempt aping patriotism; and plentitudinous, old fashioned blather." See Otis' complete blog post here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Arkansas: Eight Pardons

Gov. Mike Beebe has announced that he will grant eight pardons. Each has "completed all jail time and parole-and-probationary requirements and paid all fines." Among the offenses addressed by the pardons are domestic abuse, battery and drug possession to burglary, theft and criminal mischief.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Times on: Pizer, Gov. Walker and Mercy

While we have certainly done our share of blasting away at Gov. Scott Walker's No Consideration of Clemency for Anyone Policy, we are pleased to see the New York Times take interest. 

Today, a story recounts a meeting between "a former Marine (Eric Pizer), who threw the right jab just days after returning from a second deployment" and his victim "who has not breathed the same since." As the Times puts it:

The ex-Marine, Eric Pizer, seeks a pardon because he aches with remorse, and because his one-punch felony conviction means that he cannot possess or own a gun, disqualifying him from his desired career in law enforcement. He has only one smudge on his record. “This one night,” he said. “This one time.” 
It all happened a decade ago, but there is "one problem"
The governor of Wisconsin is Scott Walker, a possible Republican contender for president who, since taking office in 2011, has declined to exercise his power of pardon, which the Wisconsin Constitution describes as “an official act of forgiveness.” With the Pizer case emerging as a cause célèbre in Wisconsin, the governor has defended his no-pardon policy, saying that he sees no reason to “undermine” the criminal justice system — no matter that pardons were frequently granted by at least the last five governors before him. 
Indeed, Governor Walker rationalizes his neglect of clemency processes by admitting that there are thousands of persons in his State "who probably have a compelling case to be made that we don’t know about.” 

This piece ends wonderfully:

They talked some more. Then Mr. Pizer asked for forgiveness. About 85 miles to the east, in the Capitol in Madison, the power of forgiveness goes untapped. But here in Boscobel, Mr. Frazier studied the penitent ex-Marine before him, and then said it: “I forgive you.” Mr. Pizer felt a release, and stuck out his right hand. It was received in a good, firm grip. 
See Times story here.

Michigan: Court Revokes Gubernatorial Revocation!

Jennifer Granholm
The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that governors "cannot reduce a prisoner’s sentence and then change their mind." The decision reverses one of Jennifer Granholm’s last acts as Governor - when she commuted the life sentence of Matthew Makowski, making him eligible for parole. See article here.

Noting the State's Constitution does not grant "absolute" power to the Governor in the matter of clemency, the Court ruled a commutation of sentence is "final" when it is "signed by the Secretary of State and affixed with the Great Seal" (20). Interestingly, the plaintiff had originally argued finality included "delivery" to the Department of Corrections (4) - no particular attention given to the definition of "delivered" (mailed? waiting to be mailed? received but not opened? opened but not addressed? etc.).

Quite oddly, the Court could not imagine "at what point the power [to revoke] would cease" (22) - the long held, traditional and widely known suggesting being when an act of clemency is delivered into the hands of (and accepted by) the recipient. See the Supreme Court's opinion here.


New Clemency Applications Duplicate Old Application Numbers

Yahoo News reports that "more than 18,000 prisoners" have "filled out electronic surveys to apply for reduced sentences from President Barack Obama." But, it is also noted that "about 18,000" federal prisoners had already applied for commutations "over the previous 12 years combined." In addition, it is notes that "many" of the applicants "almost certainly do not meet the requirements set out by the Justice Department."
The president is looking for federal prisoners who have already served 10 years for a nonviolent crime that would have been prosecuted or sentenced differently today. (One example is inmates who were charged under now-repealed laws that punished people 100 times more harshly for possessing or dealing crack than powder cocaine.) Prisoners must have a clean record as inmates and have committed no “significant” violent acts before their current charge. 
The Clemency Project 2014 will conduct "initial screening" of petitions and choose "the best applications, flesh them out, and then send them on to the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the coming months." University of St. Thomas Law Professor Mark Osler says trained volunteer attorneys will vet the applications and "some of the smartest attorneys in the United States" will also "help.”

See story here.

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