Sunday, March 23, 2008

The President: Request

Jason Charles Yaeger is finishing up the last year of a four-year sentence in a minimum security federal prison camp (which sports a two-foot high fence). But he is asking President Bush for clemency so he can be with his 10-year old daughter who is dying of brain cancer. Yaeger has been allowed three brief supervised visits since the terminal diagnosis last fall. Two of the visits were in the last month. But a warden has refused his requests to be moved to a halfway house or granted furlough. A letter written to Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R) states that "although Mr. Yaeger believes his daughter's severe medical condition constitutes 'extraordinary justification,' a review of his case reveals this specific request was … reviewed … and denied … because his circumstances were not deemed to rise to the level of extraordinary." See story here and here and here.

EDITOR: Hat tip to Prof. Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy for drawing my attention to this very tough case. It reminded me of personal letters written by William H. Taft in the early 1900s. Taft frequently expressed his view that the administration of justice should not yield to “maudlin sentimentality” or, even worse, “organized emotion and sentiment.” This was a particularly important consideration since, in his view, the “frequent result” of punishment was that those “near to the criminal or dependent upon him suffer more than he does and their pitiable condition often furnishes a plea for mitigation of the penalty.” In such instances, those who plead for pardons “are generally blind to the right of society to be protected from criminals.” Nonetheless, the Annual Reports of the Attorney General of the United States are filled with grants of clemency justified (or explained) on grounds very similar to Yeager's. Perhaps I will drum up a few for a future post.

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