Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Massachusetts: Commutation Request

Arnold King has been in prison for 36 years because, at age 18, he got high on marijuana and alcohol, stuck a gun inside a car and killed 26-year old John Labanara, a campaign aide to the Mayor of Boston. Labanara had just passed the bar exam and was out celebrating with friends. The first-degree murder conviction landed King a life sentence without the possibility of parole. But the six-member state Advisory Board of Pardons has now unanimously supported King's request for a commutation of sentence and, given the recent attention to former governor Mitt Romney's record on clemency, Governor Deval Patrick (D) has an interesting decision to make.

King's current (and fifth overall) bid for clemency is also supported by the Massachusetts Black Legislative Caucus, a Harvard Law School professor, a Boston City Councilor and former mayoral candidate. In his first three attempts, it was concluded that he was not taking responsibility for the murder. Now, however, King says that he is sorry. Meanwhile the family of the murder victim, a Police Commissioner and the District Attorney oppose his release. The governor will not comment on the case but has issued a statement which says that he is "inclined to believe that offenders should serve their sentences in full."

Of course, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney (who rejected King's fourth bid for clemency - also recommended by the Advisory Board) bragged about the fact that his record for clemency as governor was one of complete inaction and/or rejection. Romney's exit seems to have lifted hopes for a change in policy. Since Patrick has taken office, commutation and pardon petitions have almost tripled. The Boston Globe reports, however, that the last commutation granted in the State of Massachusetts was given to Joseph Salvati in 1997, amid evidence he had been wrongly convicted of a murder in 1965.

See story here.

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