Wednesday, April 30, 2008

North Carolina: For Judge?

The Charlotte Observer is issuing recommendation with respect to upcoming primary elections for North Carolina's Court of Appeals. The Observer notes two individuals are seeking the seat James A. Wynn has held for 11 years, Jewel Ann Farlow and Dean R. Poirier. Wynn is given the thumbs up, and the Observer notes:

Ms. Farlow has practiced civil and criminal law for 19 years and has a reputation for being hard-working, analytical and a passionate advocate for clients. (Voters considering that record might also be aware she received a pardon of forgiveness in 2001 from Gov. Jim Hunt for two misdemeanor larceny convictions in 1982.)
Doug Clark (here) notes Farlow has no web site but provides a link to a case where she was a litigant (here). Clark also provides language from a clemency warrant which says Farlow pled guilty to "two counts of Misdemeanor Larceny and Trespass" and received the following sentence: "12 months suspended with two years unsupervised probation with conditions and Prayer for Judgment continued upon payment of costs." Says Clark:
Greensboro attorney Don Vaughan represented Farlow in seeking this pardon. In a face-to-face interview with me Tuesday, Farlow would not discuss any of the circumstances of her convictions, which she attributed to "youthful stupidity." Born Jan. 6, 1958, she was 24 at the time and a graduate of Duke University. After our interview, I learned Farlow was charged with carrying a concealed weapon in Greensboro in 1983, but that charge was dismissed. I have tried to reach her to ask her about this, but she did not return my call by the time I left the office at 5:45. Why dwell on matters that happened 25 or more years ago and have been officially forgiven? Voters deserve to know. Farlow is running for one of the highest judicial offices in the state. That she was once convicted of criminal offenses is relevant. People can decide for themselves what importance to assign these matters.
See Observer story here.

Watch List: Siegelman Speaks!

The Huffington Post is featuring an interview with former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, a member of our Pardon Watch List. See interview here.

The President: Judge Walton on Libby

When U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton disagreed with the probation office's sentencing recommendations and denied Scooter Libby's request to remain free during appeals, he brought on President Bush's commutation of Libby's 2 1/2 year prison sentence (the $250,000 fine, felony conviction and probation remained). Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald complained about Bush's use of the pardon power immediately.

Judge Walton has waited until now to express his opinion. He believes the president "has that authority" (the power to grant commutations), that the President "exercised it, and that that has to be respected." But Walton appears to have little respect for the President's decision making otherwise.

For example, Walton expresses the time-worn, boiler-plate concern that "there are a lot of people in America who think that justice is determined to a large degree by who you are and that what you have plays a large role in what kind of justice you receive." Of course, these perceptions are also present with respect to thinking about the recruitment process for federal judges, like Walton. What is more, political scientist John R. Schmidhauser, in his book Judges and Justices, has well-documented the validity of these perceptions. Now, what are we to do? Impeach 90 percent of the federal judiciary?

Judge Walton is also concerned about an oncoming rash of criminal activity since, people "won't follow" the law if they do not "respect it." I have not seen the data on the validity of this concern/predicted increase as of yet, and the commutation was granted last July. But I suspect the expressed concern/prediction is about as valid as the expressed concerns/predictions that the President's critics had with respect to so-called "Libby Motions" (see commentary here, here, here, here, and here).

Finally, Judge Walton is also proud of the fact that he does not give white-collar criminals "a pass." The irony here, of course, is that it is perfectly reasonable to guess that Libby's social status is what got him into federal court to begin with. That us to say, his background, "privileged" status and "contacts" were not the source of an advantage. They were a distinct liability!

Regardless, one hopes Judge Walton is not simply ignoring the considered recommendations of other sentencing authorities and over-sentencing white collar criminals so as to appear to be a "tough" guy. Most of the President's critics agree that we really don't need any more of that in the federal judiciary. See story here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mississippi: Request

Gov. Haley Barbour (R) rejected Earl Wesley Berry’s request for a reprieve last fall. Now Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has set an execution date for May 5. Berry was convicted for the brutal 1987 murder of Mary Boundsawyers and his lawyers are now seeking a stay of execution from the Governor. They argue Berry is mentally retarded and that he should be allowed to seek clemency from the governor one more time. See full article here.

A New U.S. Pardon Attorney

From the U.S. Department of Justice: The Justice Department today announced that Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey has appointed Ronald L. Rodgers to serve as the U.S. Pardon Attorney. Rodgers will oversee the Office of the Pardon Attorney, which is responsible for reviewing petitions for executive clemency and preparing recommendations for the President.

Rodgers has served with the Department of Justice since March 1999 in the Drug Intelligence Unit of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, where he has been Director of the Unit since September 2005.

Prior to joining the Department of Justice, Rodgers served on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1977 to 1999. His final active duty assignment was as Circuit and Deputy Chief Military Judge of the Navy-Marine Corps Trial Judiciary from 1995 to 1999. During his time in the Marine Corps, Rodgers also gained several years experience as a prosecutor, defense counsel, and trial advocacy instructor.

Rodgers is a 1977 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and a 1983 graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law, where he graduated summa cum laude. Rodgers also attended the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College from 1989-90.

The Pardon Attorney assists the President in the exercise of executive clemency as authorized under Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution. Under the Constitution, the President's clemency power extends only to federal criminal offenses. Requests for executive clemency for federal offenses are directed to the Pardon Attorney for investigation and review. The Pardon Attorney prepares a report to the President for signature of the Deputy Attorney General with a recommendation for final disposition of each application. Executive clemency may take several forms, including pardon, commutation of sentence, remission of fine or restitution, and reprieve.

Utah: New Online Searchable Archive

Utah State Archives Series 328

DESCRIPTION: Case files consist of letters to the Governor, a formal application for a pardon, petitions and letters of support from the public and officials connected to the case and during the first 40 years, case files often contained court transcripts, biographical sketches, prison evaluations and a wide variety of related documentation. Cases illustrate the process of review by the board of cases of prisoners incarcerated in the Utah prison system to determine if they should be released before their regular sentence ended. Documents contain personal data about the prisoner, criminal activity, family background and evaluation of the prisoner's adjustment to incarceration.

Colorado: Juvenile Clemency

The Rocky Mountain News reports that, last year, Colorado's Juvenile Clemency Board was held out as "a last ray of hope for young prisoners serving time for crimes they committed in their teens." In his executive order establishing the Board last fall, Gov. Bill Ritter (D) attempted to design the Board for juvenile offenders who had been tried as adults. But the Board has since adopted criteria requiring each applicant to have been a "juvenile when he was tried and convicted as an adult." As a result, the Board does not consider the age of offenders at the time of the offense. Instead it considers their age at the time of conviction, or even sentencing. The piece notes "many cases, especially murder charges, can take a year or more to get to trial" and "a number of young prisoners become ineligible" under these guidelines. A resolution of these complications is expected in June. See story here.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Watch List: Pollard and Kadish, Again

This article at World Net Daily asks if the President might pardon Jonathan Pollard in the wake of the arrest of 84-year old Israeli spy Ben-Ami Kadish. The piece notes:
This is not the first time the intelligence community has tried to scuttle Jonathan's release, by creating a media frenzy to tie the president's hands. Each time, over the last 2 decades that there has been some sense that a commutation or a pardon might be in the offing, there have been official leaks to the media, creating such devastating press about Jonathan that it made it difficult for the president to proceed with commutation.
It should be noted, however, that the author of the piece is Pollard's wife, Esther.

Illinois: Some National Press for the Problem

This story in today's Washington Post relates the circumstance of Tabitha Pollock , whose conviction has been overturned by the Illinois State Supreme Court:
With a felony record, she cannot become a teacher, as she wants. She cannot collect damages from the Illinois government. On a trip to Australia, where customs officials questioned her when she arrived, she learned that the murder conviction always follows her. To fully clear her name, Pollock -- as well as a dozen or so other former Illinois inmates who have been exonerated -- needs an official pardon, which only the governor can give. She applied in 2002 but has received no word.
A spokesperson for the Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) explains that he is currently flooded with petitions and just doesn't have the time to focus on Pollock's case. Makes sense. That is what happens when you let things go as long as Blagojevich has. Of course, this is also why a federal district court has recently ruled that Illinois is violating the rights of clemency petitioners by doing nothing with their applications for extended periods of time (see summary of the federal ruling here).

The Post article also offers some interesting data on how states compensate exonerated prisoners. Alabama, for example, pays them $50,000 for each year of incarceration. New Jersey pays $40,000 or twice the inmate's previous annual income. Louisiana offers only $15,000, but provides counseling, medical care and job training. In Illinois:
... to regain a certifiably clean record and collect compensation -- a lump payment of $60,150 for five years or less in prison, or $120,300 for six to 14 years -- an exonerated inmate must obtain a "pardon based on innocence" from the governor. A 15-member state review board interviews the petitioners and makes a recommendation, but the governor is not obligated to make a decision.
Of course, the key word in all of that is pardon, at least in a state where your application may sit for 6-7 years, or longer, without any response whatsoever, and you cannot reapply, or update your application along the way (see commentary by Tamara Holder here). Meanwhile, the state legislature is considering legislation which would provide cleared inmates with "certificates" declaring their "innocence" and having the same legal effect as a pardon.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

South Dakota: Commutations Remembered

This post, at the ArgusLeader, retells the story of "the Janklow 36." Twenty-two years ago, in October of 1986, Governor Bill Janlow (R) addressed the prison overcrowding pardon by releasing individuals that he considered to be "low-risk inmates with few South Dakota ties." Thus, the commutations were conditioned on the recipients leaving the state and never returning. The article says a commutation of that sort "has not been granted in South Dakota before or since." The result of the effort? The ArgusLeader notes:
It was a gamble that, according to an Argus Leader investigation, turned out to be a much bigger public safety risk to South Dakota and other states than the governor probably ever imagined. A few took advantage of the release to re-enter society, starting families and businesses. But many ended up in prison for crimes ranging from dealing drugs to armed robbery and burglary. At least six still are behind bars. One, Cliff Birch, raped a 23-year-old woman in a field between Freeman and Canistota only 20 months after he was granted his early release.
But the article also notes Governor Janklow used the pardon power "at an unmatched rate, issuing almost 2,000 commutations during the second eight-year stint in the governor's office." Nothing is said in the piece about the post-prison record of the other 99 percent of the persons who were released. Nonetheless, the piece concludes:
But the lesson of that decision is a valuable one today as state legislatures struggling with overcrowding and skyrocketing corrections budgets consider easing those pressure valves with early releases. At least eight states are considering freeing inmates or sending some convicts to rehabilitation programs instead of prison ... Now, as states grapple with overcrowding and surging corrections budgets, it's a lesson worth remembering, especially when places such as Kentucky and California are considering releasing thousands of inmates early.
But what exactly is "the lesson" here? Is it that clemency should not be used at all? Or, is it that better judgement should have been made with respect to "many" of the 36 individuals highlighted in the article? Maybe "the lesson" is that the state cannot be 100 percent accurate(only 99 percent) about the future of every individual who, at the time of release, might be worthy of clemency - a rate that might be considered fairly impressive in most other arenas of human activity.

Janklow initiated a program that made inmates eligible for earlier parole if they participated in community service projects. A 2003 task force decided that clemency program was "a good idea." Indeed, ninety-three percent of the nearly 2,000 commutations mentioned above (or 1,874 to be exact) were members of inmate work crews. In addition, most of those commutations were "minor sentence reductions" that simply pushed up an inmate's release date. On average, the difference was about 77.38 days. I am guessing that if most - or even a significant portion - of those released had commited heinous crimes and had been returned to prison, we would all know about it. That is to say, there is a reason for the lack of statistical insights regarding the other 99 percent.

Janklow's clemency decisions were actually "controversial" for another reason. From, 1995 to 2003, the State's nine-member Pardon and Parole Board received a whopping 4,540 applications for commutations. And yet the Board (composed of citizens) only recommended clemency in a 6 cases! Governor Janklow granted all but one of his commutations without input from the board. What is "the lesson" here?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Campaign 08: Clinton Comes Clean!

Mrs. Clinton has, at last, addressed her husband's use of the pardon power on behalf of two members of the radical group Weather Underground (see previous commentary here). The question became relevant, of course, when, in the recent debate, Mrs. Clinton attempted to brand rival presidential candidate Barack Obama for being acquainted with William Ayers, another member of the same group - a member who was never actually sent to prison. But, finally, Mrs. Clinton has been directly asked about her husband's decision making and she has responded:

Well, I didn't know anything about it.

Perhaps the cynic will not be pleased. But, recall, Mrs. Clinton knew nothing as to the whereabouts of those Whitewater billing records, until they were found in boxes in her closet (see commentary here). She knew nothing about the FALN pardons. She knew nothing about her husband's pardon of his own half-brother (Roger Clinton). She knew nothing about her brother, Hugh, collecting almost a half a million dollars to pursue pardons for others. But she was "upset" and "disappointed" to learn about it. She knew nothing about her brother, Tony, helping with pardons either. Mrs. Clinton knew nothing about William J. Cunningham (her campaign treasurer) pursuing pardons for two felons. But she was "disappointed" to learn about that business as well. It goes without saying that Mrs. Clinton knew nothing about the assistance fellow Arkansan and White House council Bruce Lindsey provided for her brother. But Mrs. Clinton took the trouble to tell CNN, "I don't know anything" (see Hillary revel in her lack of knowledge here).

Why, there just might not be any limit to what Mrs. Clinton does not know about one of the most scandalous chapters in the history of presidential pardons - the one which features her own husband, both of her brothers, her brother-in-law, her campaign treasurer and other long-time political associates.

Of course, we are still waiting to learn if Mrs. Clinton was/is "upset" or "disappointed" to learn of her husband's use of the pardon power on behalf of Weather Underground members Susan Rosenberg and Linda Evans. My advice: Don't hold your breath! See both the debate chat and Clinton's statement here.

Watch List: Update

Presidential Pardon Watch List - P.S. Ruckman, Jr.

- Clarence Aaron (drug dealing)
- Willie Mays Aikens (sold drugs to an undercover agent)
- Conrad Black (fraud and obstruction of justice)
- Duane Chapman (deprivation of liberty) X - won extradition battle (11/6/07)
- Roger Clemens
- Jose Compean (illegal arrest of an alien)
- Edwin Edwards (convicted of racketeering)
- John Forte (cocaine)
- Gilmer Hernandez (civil rights violation)
- Lawrence Hutchins (soldier, murder)
- Ron Isley (tax evasion)
- Jack Johnson (violated the Mann Act)
- Marion Jones (steroids)
- Scooter Libby (perjury, obstruction of justice)
- John Walker Lindh
(terrorism)
- David H. McNab (smuggling and money laundering)
-
Michael Milken
(securities and reporting violations)
- Julius Nasso (conspiracy, extortion)
- O.Henry (embezzling bank funds)
- Lance Persson
(drug dealing)
- Leonard Pielter
(double murder of FBI agents)
- The Pig (tasting so good) X - White House spokesman says "no" (11/18/07)
- Jonathan Pollard (delivering classified information to foreign government)
- Ignacio Ramos
(illegal arrest of an alien)
- George Ryan (corruption)
- Richard Scrushy (corruption)
- Don Siegelman
(corruption)
- Jeffrey Skilling (fraud, conspiracy, insider trading)
- Martha Stewart (obstruction of justice)
- Michael Vick (conspiracy to operate interstate dogfighting ring)
- Robert Steve Vukelic (knowledge of a felony, failing to reporting it to authorities)
- Mark E. Whitacre (wire fraud, tax fraud, and money laundering)
- Jason Charles Yeager (methamphetamine charges)

Arkansas: Clemency Remembered

The Arkansas Times features an editorial on the death penalty. Along the way, it notes:

Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller's last official act was to spare the lives of 15 prisoners on Arkansas's Death Row. “What earthly mortal has the omnipotence to say who among us shall live and who shall die?” he asked in 1970. “I cannot and will not turn my back on lifelong Christian teachings and beliefs merely to let history run out its course on a fallible and failing theory of punitive justice.”

See full editorial here.

Watch List: Pollard and Kadish

Jonathan Pollard, on our Pardon Watch List, says he does not know Ben-Ami Kadish, who was recently arrested for spying for Israel between 1979 and 1985. Pollard's wife says her husband had only heard of Mr. Kadish, a former Army engineer, when the arrest was publicized. This report also says Pollard's wife "further played down speculation that the new affair could hurt Israel's efforts to win clemency for Pollard, who is scheduled to go free from prison in 2015." Meanhile the L.A. Times blog observes:

Critics of Israel and numerous intelligence professionals have long maintained that Pollard was the tip of the iceberg. For many out there, the infamous tale of the Israeli art student spy ring remains one of the criminally under-explored stories of recent years.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Campaign 08: The Mother of All PR Beatings

When we last visited the Mother Jones blog (here), Mrs. Clinton's campaign communications director Howard Wolfson was taking an awful beating "for the team." In the recent debate, Clinton attempted to attach Barack Obama to William Ayers, a member of the 1960s radical group Weather Underground, and Obama made the obvious retort - Mrs. Clinton's husband actually granted presidential pardons to members of Weather Underground (Susan Rosenberg and Linda Evans). In a press conference following the debate disaster, Mother Jones asked Wolfson (no less than three times) if Mrs. Clinton supported her husband's pardons? Of course, this was the obvious question to ask since - although her husband's administration was a virtual encyclopedia of pardon controversies - Mrs. Clinton has never once spoken a critical word of his historic pardon abuses. Indeed, she has rationalized and defended the behavior (see her words here). Wolfson eventually responded, "I am not an expert on the pardons .... I don't know what she said." The reporter then asked Mr. Wolfson if he could maybe use his inside connections with Mrs. Clinton's campaign and come up with an answer. Wolfson said, "Yes."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Oklahoma: Convention to Discuss Pardons?

The Oklahoma Senate has voted 41-6 in favor of a resolution proposing a statewide vote on whether a convention should be held to consider rewriting the State's Constitution. State Senator Susan Paddack (D) says among the ideas being considered is removal of the governor from the pardon and parole process. See report here.

Illinois: Alton Logan is Free

The Chicago Sun-Times reports:
[Alton] Logan walked out of Cook County Jail on Friday after a judge vacated his conviction in the murder of a security guard during a January 1982 robbery of a South Side McDonald's. The judge ordered a new trial, citing new evidence, including the words of two attorneys who testified in court this year that their client committed the murder.
See story in the Chicago-Sun Times here. See previous PardonPower posts on his case here:
* Governor Ignores Alton Logan 3/12/08
* The Governor's Next Pardon? 3/10/08

Watch List: Canada on Black

Our friends to the north are having a time with the pardon power as exercised in the United States. A recent article in the Gazette reads:

Finally, there is the Globe and Mail theory that [Conrad] Black could be granted a presidential pardon. However, in the United States Black is a non-resident alien. Nobody in the White House or Justice Department owes him anything.

Quite the contrary. The fraud and obstruction of justice conviction came with a hefty price tag - about $500 million in law enforcement time, investigations, legal fees, fines and insurance payouts, not to mention more than $1.5-billion in shareholder losses.

And above all, how can a pardon be granted to someone who acknowledges no responsibility for his conviction? In a landmark 1915 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held that accepting a pardon is an admission of guilt.
The notion that pardons are only granted to persons who can demand them as repayment is fun enough, but the President can clearly grant a pardon to Black regardless of whether or not Black "acknowledges" responsibility for his conviction. The Gazette might recall Bill Clinton's pardon of Henry Flipper, who acknowledged no guilt and did not accept the pardon (Flipper died in 1940). Not to mention the fact that Bush could also commute Black's sentence, regardless of whether of not Black "acknowledges" anything. In sum, it is important to remember that there is no constitutional right to stay in federal prison. This topic is dicussed in more detail at the Pardon for Scooter Libby? blog in these posts: Pardon and Guilt and Pardon and Guilt II. To see the full Gazette article, click here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Arkansas: The Pardoned Candidate

Former Arkansas attorney general Steve Clark has finally announced that he will seek to become the mayor of Fayetteville - see previous posts on his candidacy here and here. The 61-year-old Clark was convicted of felony theft when he misused a state credit card in 1990. He was fined only $15,407 and court costs and lost his Arkansas law license. But Governor Mike Huckabee (R) pardoned Clark (a Democrat) in 2004. See reports here and here.

Oklahoma: DA Just Says "No"

District Attorney Cathy Stocker will be combating quite a few requests at this month’s meeting of the state Pardon and Parole Board. In fact, she is protesting 28 of the 29 requests on the docket that are from her district. Among those who will meet with Stocker's opposition are a man convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon (and serving 500 years) and a man convicted of DUI (who is serving a five-year sentence). Another is serving a 25-year sentence for possessing a stolen motor vehicle. "Robbery by force or fear" netted a 20-year sentence with 12 suspended for another fellow. Twelve of the requests are for drug-related charges. See story here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Campaign 08: Into the Abyss

As if the recent conversation with a writer for Mother Jones was not disastrous enough (see brief summary here), Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer appears to be putting the final touches on a public relations disaster. Of course, Mrs. Clinton started the ball rolling, during the last debate, by trying to glue Weather Underground member Bill Ayers to Barack Obama. The stunt has actually been in the making for some time now (see commentary here and here). Obama responded by reminding the world that Bill Clinton granted pardons to Weather Underground members Linda Evans and Susan Rosenberg.

It has been all downhill from there. Since the big debate, we have also been reminded that Mrs. Clinton has never once spoken a single critical word regarding her husband's pardon of Evans and Rosenberg. Howard Wolfson, Mrs. Clinton's campaign communications director is currently looking for some commentary on the matter. While Wolfson spins, crashes and burns in slow motion, Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer has begun his own ugly nose-dive into incredulity. ABC News reports Singer is beside himself becase Mr. Ayers is "unrepentant of what he did" and boldly claims "that is a difference, of course, between Linda Evans and Susan Rosenberg."

Readers of the April 8, 2001 issue of the Austin American-Statesman are not impressed. They remember an article with a heading, UNREPENTANT RADICAL: FREED FROM PRISON BY PRESIDENT CLINTON. Evans told readers, "I'm not repentant. That's for sure. I wouldn't go about it the same (violent) way." Which made sense. Just two years earlier she wrote, "I hate this country so profoundly." See ABC News story here.

Arkansas: Pencil That In - Somewhere Else!

The Arkansas Democrat and Gazette reports that the state Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct has ruled that a Little Rock attorney must repay the parents of a prison inmate for the $750 fee charged for the completion of a clemency application. It has since been learned that the lawyer completed the application in pencil - instead of the required ink. Mercy!

Maryland: Some Attitude Here!

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) announced Thursday that he is considering whether or not Maryland's lethal injection protocol should examined in a study by a new commission on capital punishment that was formed by the General Assembly. The commission will focus on "racial, jurisdictional and economic disparities" in the administration of capital punishment. Meanwhile, there are five prisoners on "death row," and Maryland Republicans are increasingly vocal in their criticisms. They believe the Governor is simply not enforcing the law because he doesn't like it. House Republican Leader Anthony O'Donnell says, "If this governor wants to grant heinous murderers a pardon, he has the right to do that. But he does not have the right to suspend the law and that's what he's doing by failing to issue these protocols." See story here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Insights: Tamara Holder on Pardons, Illinois, the Governor

 Tamara N. Holder interned with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office (Chicago) and Miramax Films (Los Angeles) before graduating from The John Marshall Law School. As principal of The Law Firm of Tamara N. Holder, LLC, her practice focuses on criminal defense, expungement, racial discrimination, police brutality, public policy, and pro bono work. Holder founded The Rainbow PUSH Expungement Clinic, where she meets regularly with individuals to review criminal records and provide advice on expungements and other legal issues. She exposed improper employment practices in the railroad industry regarding those with criminal records and spearheaded a Congressional inquiry and a hearing before the Congressional Committee of Homeland Security in February of 2007. In July of 2007, Holder testified as an expert witness before the Congressional Committee of Transportation, Sub-Committee of Maritime and Infrastructure. In the past, she has met privately with Governor Rod Blagojevich on the issue of pardons and Attorney General Lisa Madigan on criminal sentencing and expungement laws. Last month, she organized a "We Need Pardons" rally at the Thompson Center in Chicago. PardonPower had these questions for Ms. Holder:

PardonPower: First, how would you explain the difference between pardon and expungement and their relationship to each other in the State of Illinois?


Minnesota: Before the Board

The Pioneer Press has an intriguing piece today at TwinCities.com. It describes the efforts of several individuals who have recently appeared before the State Board of Pardons - which is composed of Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), Attorney General Lori Swanson and Chief Justice Russell Anderson form the state Board of Pardons. For example, eighty-year-old Emilia Acosta appeared before the Board to explain why she shot and killed her husband back in 1971. The article reports Acosta finished her sentence "long ago" and was asking the State to "forgive her" and wipe her "slate clean." Here is a snippet:
Like Acosta, most people who come before the board have finished their prison or jail terms decades ago and seek what is known as a "pardon extraordinary.'' This means they would no longer be legally required to report convictions when asked.

But there is much more at stake than the legal process. People came from manufacturing plants and office desks and check-out posts to admit to this daunting and public tribunal that they did something very wrong. Their lives are still encumbered by these long-ago crimes, most of them far less serious than Acosta's. They want the state to let them turn the page.
Acosta submitted letters of recommendation and brought along a character witness. The chief justice noted her conviction was commuted from first- to second-degree murder after her mental health problems were taken into account. Gov. Pawlenty oberved that crimes of such severity are generally not pardoned. The governor then called for a vote and no one supported the pardon. See full story here.

Watch List: Border Agents (Update)

Yesterday, Osvaldo Aldrete Davila pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import drugs and admitted that he tried to bring marijuana into the country in 2005. He was also in the United States illegally when he was shot by border agents Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos. Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R) is renewing his call for President Bush to commute the sentences of Compean and Ramos, who are serving 12 and 11 years in prison, respectively. In his view, it is “well past time for the president to do the right thing and commute their sentences.” Cornyn believes yesterday's guilty plea "opens even more questions than it answers" and wonders "when did the U.S. Attorney’s office first learn that Davila violated the terms of his immunity agreement by engaging in drug smuggling in 2005? Was this purposefully withheld from the jury deliberating the fate of Ramos and Compean?” See article here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Campaign 08: Oh, The Humanity! Wolfson on Terror Pardons

The Mother Jones blog is featuring a gem of a post summarizing recent comments of Howard Wolfson, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign communications director. In part the post says:

... Wolfson and Phil Singer, another top Clinton aide, had hammered Barack Obama for having held a fundraiser during his first state senate campaign in Illinois at the home of William Ayers, a professor of education at the University of Illinois and a former aide to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who was a member of the radical Weather Underground organization ...

When it came time for questions for Wolfson, I asked an obvious one: Did Hillary Clinton believe that it had been appropriate in 2001 for President Bill Clinton to have pardoned two members of the Weather Underground as he left office? ... And, I continued, has Senator Clinton ever criticized this decision? Has she ever said anything publicly about it? Rosenberg, I noted, had been apprehended with 740 pounds of explosives in her possession.

Wolfson replied, "I am not aware of Linda Evans or Susan Rosenberg...hosting a political event for Senator Clinton."

I interrupted to note that I had not asked whether they had. I had asked whether Clinton had supported or opposed her husband's pardons for these two women. (I resisted the urge to throw in Marc Rich.)

Wolfson responded that while I have the right to ask questions the way I see fit, he has the right to answer them in the manner he chooses--and then I can evaluate his reply ... Wolfson went on to accuse the Obama campaign of trying to conflate the pardons and the Ayers issues ...

I tried again: the question is whether Senator Clinton believes the pardons for Rosenberg and Evans were appropriate.

Wolfson replied "I am not an expert on the pardons....I don't know what she said" about them.

Could he find out and get back to us? Yes, he said.

See full blog post here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Campaign 08: Shall We Chat About Pardons, Mrs. Clinton?

One just has to believe that the Clinton campaign cringes every time the topic of pardons gets anywhere near a conversation, much less a debate. But these are desperate times and the end-game might be closer than many desire. The Wall Street Journal summarizes a portion of tonight's debate in the following manner:

When the debate turned to Sen. Obama's association with William Ayers, a former member of the violent Weather Underground group, Sen. Obama pointed to the question as an example of pointless distractions, which he said were a "game in which anybody who I know regardless of how flimsy the relationship is, somehowtheir ideas can be attributed to me."

But Sen. Clinton didn't let up. While she called her rival a "good man," she used the example to raise doubts about other vulnerabilities that could trip up Sen. Obama. "It goes to this larger set of concerns about how we are going to run against John McCain," she said.

The New York senator noted that she didn't have those same vulnerabilities because she had long faced Republican attacks. "I have a lot of baggage and everybody has rummaged through it for years," she said.

Once attacked, Sen. Obama let loose and pointed to his rival's disingenuousness. President Clinton, he said, had pardoned two members of Weather Underground. And he said that his ability to take Sen. Clinton's political punches should reassure Democratic voters that he would withstand Republican attacks in the fall.

Ah yes, Susan Rosenberg and Linda Evans (see commentary here and here). Note to Mrs. Clinton: Stay away from discussions about pardons, and any discussion three degrees of separation from pardons. That big dog bites hard! See full article here.

Insights: New Post Category

PardonPower will soon feature a new category of posts entitled: INSIGHTS. For these posts, I will have lawyers, judges, scholars and media persons respond to a series of questions regarding some issues(s) addressed in PardonPower posts. The questions will aim to draw out opinion and insight and wide latitude will be given to those who are kind enough to respond. While I will certainly welcome responses from readers, I will not be commenting (agreeing or disagreeing) with these posts. Another goal, of course, will be to provide timely information. For that reason, we could probably not have a more outstanding beginning.

The PardonPower INSIGHTS posts will begin with responses from Tamara N. Holder, a prominent attorney in the Chicagoland area, who will share insights regarding clemency processes in Illinois and recent events (e.g., the pardons of Chandra Gill and Sharon Latiker) which have drawn attention to the governor's pardon power. You will not want to miss it. So, stay tuned.

Florida: Request

Russell Trawick was serving a 10-year sentence for stealing money orders when he escaped from a Florida prison in 1975. For over three decades, he carried on "secret communications" with family members. Along the way, he spent time in Indiana, Michigan and Missouri, got married and even filed his income taxes. But, now, Trawick is back in Florida and back in prison. Meanwhile, his wife is suffering with cancer and, as Trawick puts it, "I have lived a good life for the past 30 years and I desperately want to go back to my wife and the life we have made together. My every concern is for her welfare and safety." Trawick's parents have also petitioned the state clemency board for his release. His lawyer says he hopes the governor and the Cabinet will be "sympathetic" and not spend "$30,000 a year" on his client. See full story here.

Virginia: Reprieve Ended

The Washignton Post reports that Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) will now allow executions to proceed in his State as the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the use of lethal injection in the State of Kentucky. Kaine suspended the practice earlier this month (details here) while he awaited the Court's decision in the case Baze v. Rees . He also says that he will continue to decide, on a "case by case basis," whether to grant clemency in death penalty cases. See story here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Florida: Request (Update)

In 1975, Jack Hazen, a Vietnam War veteran, robbed a 7-Eleven clerk at knife point, and took off with more than $100. When he was finally arrested, he told police he committed the robbery because he was hungry. Hazen waited about 10 months before he escaped from a prison work program in 1976 and assumed the name Charlie Free for more than three decades in Las Vegas. He was discovered, arrested and placed in a Las Vegas jail on January 30, 2008. Gov. Charlie Crist (R) then signed an extradition, returning Hazen to Florida to complete his seven-year sentence.

Today, Hazen is a 61-year-old grandfather, in solitary confinement, fighting to get medicine for multiple sclerosis, diabetes and early onset Alzheimer's. And he does not want to die in prison. So, Hazen's daughters have begun a "letter-writing campaign" to the governor to grant "expedited clemency"on their father's behalf. They have also started a website (freecharlesfree.com) to help publicize the case. See recent story here. Additional PardonPower posts on this story can be found here: February 5, March 4

Illinois: Latiker, the Papers and Some Questions

According to a March 7, 2008, article in the Chicago Sun-Times, Sharon Latiker was convicted of "deceptive practice and conspiracy" for allegedly stealing $17,250 from the city treasurer's office while she worked in the corporation counsel office - from March 1990 to October 1990. Latiker was then sentenced to two years' probation for theft, but "violated her probation, leaving a felony on her record."

Latiker received a pardon in 1999 before the current Governor, Rod Blagojevich (D) took office.

Three years later, on February 12, 2002, the Sun Times featured an article on Latiker that was rather sympathetic. It began, for example, by stating that she had acknowledged that she "made a huge mistake," that she has "gotten down on her knees and asked for forgiveness," made "restitution" and "gladly suffered the humiliation" for her crime. But, said the article, her past still controlled her future "like a traffic cop." The article went on to say, without many specifics at all, that Latiker was "one of three women" who were "swept up in a check-writing scam." In addition to describing her as having been passively "swept up," the article noted that she performed 1,000 hours of community service, she had fulfilled "all" of the requirements of her probation and worked for a "large, successful" campaign and that she had earned a Master's degree and was working on a doctorate.

So, maybe it seemed reasonable that, in August 2005, when Governor Blagojevich went a step further and formally expunging the offense from Latiker's record, the Sun-Times did not seem to even notice, even though, at the time, she had been an employee with the State since 2003. Indeed, it was three years after Blagojevich's expungement (March 14, 2008) when a Sun-Times editorial described the Governor's decision in this manner:
... Blagojevich had expunged the record of a woman, Sharon Latiker, who was gearing up to run against House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie. Blagojevich and House Speaker Michael Madigan are bitter enemies, so the expungement was seen by some as helping Latiker's campaign against Madigan's majority leader.
Likewise, it was not until 2008 that a representative from the Better Government Association observed Ms. Latiker "ripped off the public" and complained, "It's one thing to give people who had a run-in with the law a second chance. But it's another when someone is accused of stealing from the public."

Regardless, a 2006 Sun-Times editorial recommended Currie, the 27-year incumbent in the 25th district, for the State House over Latiker. The Sun-Times argued Latiker did not "seem to have a keen handle on the issues facing the state." No reference was made to either the pardon or the expungement. The Chicago Tribune, on the other hand, "strongly preferred" Currie over Latiker and described Latiker as:
... a former city Law Department administrator who was convicted for writing bad checks. Latiker later won a pardon and expungement. She has few specific ideas for the state or her district.
The same recommendation was made by the Sun-Times in 2008. The Chicago Tribune, again, "strongly endorsed" Currie over Latiker. But no mention was made of either the pardon or the expungement by either paper.

So, the question comes to this: How does the Sun-Times find the nerve to describe the Latiker pardon and expungement as being something like a recent "disclosure" in March of 2008? The Tribune knew about - and wrote about - both of the decisions in 2006. The Sun-Times has also recently reported that Blagojevich's administration has "allowed access to most of what was contained in executive clemency files at the Prisoner Review Board" since 2003. So, what has prevented the Sun-Times from "disclosing" this story for three years? Perhaps the Sun-Times should get a subscription to the Tribune?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Illinois: New Policy of Pardon Secrecy

Today's Chicago Sun-Times reports that Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) will not "open the books" on many pardons he has granted. The Sun-Times reports executive clemency files maintained by the Prisoner Review Board "typically show police reports, court records and letters of recommendation -- all accessible from the agency in the past." But Blagojevich's administration is now denying access to documents regarding the dozens of pardons he has granted by rejecting a Freedom of Information Act request from the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2003, Blagojevich's administration allowed access to most executive clemency files, but a Blagojevich spokeswoman refused to answer questions about the policy shift.

The governor has received criticism for pardoning Chandra Gill from a felony battery conviction and for granting a pardon that expunged the felony of a former employee in his office, Sharon Latiker who, as an employee, stole $17,000 from the city treasurer's office. The Sun-Times notes the pardon "came shortly before [Latiker] launched unsuccessful bids to unseat House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a top lieutenant to Blagojevich's chief legislative nemesis, House Speaker Michael Madigan." See story here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Missouri: Long Shot Pardon

In an editorial for today's St. Louis Dispatch, Bob McClellan writes about clemency in the state of Missouri. Along the way, he notes:
In a legal sense, it is about executive clemency, a seldom-used procedure by which a governor can grant a pardon or commute a sentence. Missouri governors have exercised this power only 15 times since 1992. One case involved an outright pardon. That went to Johnny Lee Wilson in 1995 after an investigation concluded that Wilson had been wrongly convicted of a murder. Most of the others involved commutation from a sentence of life without the possibility of parole to a sentence of life with the possibility of parole.

Although clemency is seldom granted, hope amongst the clemency-seekers has been running high ever since Gov. Matt Blunt announced he would not seek re-election. Governors running for re-election, or for another office, generally don't want to run the risk of looking soft on crime. But a governor who's returning to civilian life? Perhaps that's a different story.
The editorial also discusses the case of a convicted murderer whose clemency application is supported by former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, state Sen. Michael Gibbons amd former state Sen. Franc Flotron. See story here.

The President: Inside Story of a Pardon, and the Process

A recent article in the Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA) discussed the story of Pharmacist William L. Baker who was sentenced to two years in prison in 1980 for improperly refilling prescriptions (or, more specifically, refilling prescriptions for regular customers without first contacting the prescribing physician). Only 3 of the original 14 charges against him remained when a plea bargain was struck. Last month, the 69-year-old Baker, now a practicing attorney, was pardoned by President Bush. Baker filed his application back in 2002, "for the hell of it," just after graduating from Gonzaga Law School, whose Dean felt as though a "hanging" judge had given him a "raw deal." Baker passed the bar and persuaded the state bar association to grant him a law license.

Last year, during the review process, the Justice Department solicited comments from the U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. The problem was that no one remembered Baker's case. And the judge who sentenced him declined comment. Before sentencing, the judge had written a letter which said, "When I first went on the Bench I decided that cases involving illegal sales of drugs would not be treated leniently, and I have attempted to be consistent in sentences so that the drug pusher receives a jail sentence regardless of his high or his low position." At the sentencing hearing, the judge told Baker, "Your case is a little higher class - but you're going to prison, too."

The FBI was able to interview Baker's associates and neighbors and checked his tax returns, criminal history and credit. When he heard nothing back for months, Baker wrote the Office of the Pardon Attorney and asked if needed more information. On March 25, 2008, the acting pardon attorney, called him to report that the White House had just announced his pardon. The Justice Department gave no reasons for the pardon and Baker says he hasn't been told why he was selected.

North Carolina: Compensation, if Pardoned

This article recounts the story of Kirk Bloodsworth,who served nine years in prison on "death row" for the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl. In 1993, a DNA test did not match his sperm to the semen on her undergarments and he was released. The state of Maryland has compensated Bloodsworth $300,000 for wrongful imprisonment. But the article also discusses the case of another more recently exonerated North Carolina death row inmate, Glen Edward Chapman, who "can either sue the city of Hickory or receive a Pardon of Innocence from the governor, a prerequisite for receiving compensation."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Illinois: Guilty. No, Innocent! Denied. No, Wait Some More!

Gordan Steidl was sentenced to death in 1987 for murder of Karen and Dyke Rhoads, but fought to prove his innocence. He was granted a new sentencing hearing in 1999 and had his conviction overturned in 2003. After consideration of DNA and other evidence, he was freed in 2004. Since winning his freedom, Steidl has applied for a pardon from Gov. Rod Blogojevich (D). But, on February 14, 2008, a letter arrived saying the request for clemency had been denied. Steidl has since learned the denial letter was mailed as a result of a "clerical error." The Governor has not actuality acted on the request. The incident is just the latest in an increasingly bizarre year for the pardon power in the State of Illinois. First, there was the breaking news of the Chandra Gill pardon. Then there was a fascinating federal court ruling which rebuked the State's failure to process clemency applications and asserted that clemency applicants had a "right" to timely consideration of their requests by the Governor. Meanwhile, PardonPower wonders why the Governor allows Alton Logan to remain in prison. See full story on the Steidl blunder here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tennessee: Judicial / Executive Showdown

Paul House was convicted of rape and murder in 1986. Fifteen years after the conviction, DNA evidence DNA determined the semen in his the victim was actually that of victim's husband, House. As a result, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the DNA and other evidence were strong enough that a jury would not have convicted House -a determination also reached by lower courts in the appellate process. This article observes "many people thought the state would issue some type of clemency to [House], or even pardon him. But no, the state kept fighting to keep him in prison." Why? The article suggests Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) is demonstrating that it is not "easy for some people to admit that they're wrong." Now, a judge has issued an order calling for the release of House arguing, "While the public has an interest in having the state's judgments enforced, the public also has a compelling interest in the state not continuing to incarcerate individuals who have not been accorded their constitutional right to a fair trial."

Illinois: Commentary, Report

In this editorial, Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune discusses recent issues related to the pardon power in the State of Illinois. The piece suggests the "system" worked for Chandra Gill who attacked an off-duty police officer working security at a high school basketball. Gill applied for a pardon in August of 2006 and scored in January of 2007. Zorn provides several interesting details related to the pardon and considers the decision of Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) in the case to be "scandalous—yet another example of his brazen and capricious use of power." Among other things, Zorn also notes the Prisoner Review Board currently has a backlog of 1,571 applications. To date, Blagojevich has granted 67 pardons and denied 1,160 requests.

For additional information on the Chandra Gill pardon, see:
* 3/4 Illinois: A Grant. A Pardon. An Investigation.
* 3/6 Illinois: Investigation (Update)
* 3/7 Illinois: Report
* 3/10 Illinois: The Governor's Next Pardon?
* 3/12 Illinois: Governor Ignores Alton Logan
* 3/22 Illinois: Judiciary Demands Action from Governor

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Pennsylvania: Background

According to the secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, the number of pardon, or clemency, requests in the State has skyrocketed since September 11 because of an increasing number of background checks uncovering crimes committed long ago, most of which were petty crimes. The secretary also notes, “There’s not a day goes by that I don’t see a new occupation where someone can’t get a job” because of their criminal record and some applications are processed over a period of three years. Pennsylvania's five-member pardon board, which meets monthly, is the only place to go to ask for mercy under state law and an expungement (or erasure) of a criminal record can only be obtained after pardon. District attorneys and those affected by the crime are asked to weigh in on pardon requests, but there are three pieces of legislation pending that would persons with minor criminal offenses to get their record expunged without a pardon. The above-mentioned secretary notes, “The board is just so far behind. It needs to be done.” See full story here.

Context: Carter v. Clinton, Pot v. Kettle III

When everyone in the world was piling on Bill Clinton for his notorious "last-minute" pardons - because it was easy enough to do - former President Jimmy Carter was right there in the crowd, throwing his own flames. Carter condemned Clinton for granting pardons late in the term, for doing so in the face of the opinions of law enforcement officials and for granting clemency in exchange for gifts and donations. However, in previous posts here and here, we have documented that Carter 1) had his own fourth year pardon surge, and 2) it included a spree in the last several weeks of his administration. Carter also 3) granted clemency over the protests of law enforcement officials and 4) was not blind to the financial support pardon applicants provided to his party.

That all being said, what did Jimmy Carter have to say about the other big pardon controversy in the Clinton administration, the FALN pardons? Answer? Nothing. Indeed Carter supported the pardons. Why? Well, he could hardly take any other position on the matter. After all, he had pardoned his own share of notable terrorists over the protests of law enforcement officials and he also knew what it was like to be suspected of using the clemency power for political gain.

On September 6, 1979, Carter commuted the life sentence of Oscar Collazo to time served. Collazo, and another individual, had once attempted to assassinate President Harry S Truman and, but for the excellent marksmanship of a dying security guard, they would have almost certainly accomplished their goal. At the same time, Carter commuted the sentences of Irving Flores Rodriguez, Rafael Cancel-Miranda and Lolita Lebron, who expressed their political views by standing in the visitor's gallery of the United States House of Representatives and filling the chamber with bullets - hitting several members of Congress in the process. None of the four above mentioned individuals ever even admitted guilt, much less expressed remorse for their behavior. And none of them ever applied for parole or a pardon.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Cancel-Miranda held his copy of Jimmy Carter’s clemency warrant high in the air and tore it into little pieces. He then scattered the remains throughout an admiring crowd. Later, he would defend his future "right to fight" and explained that he "might" have to use bombs. He also bragged that his bullets hit more members of Congress than those of his accomplices. Lebron said she was “proud” of herself and promised she would return to Puerto Rico and “light a fire of national liberation.” She also mocked the President’s “human rights” justification for the commutations and called his use of the pardoning power an act of “political expediency.” She was not alone in that assessment.

The Federal Criminal Investigators Association called Carter’s commutations a “travesty” and urged Congress to investigate the matter. The Los Angeles Times considered Carter’s decision “a mistake.” In an editorial entitled “Terrorism Goes Free,” it was observed that the PR campaign to release the Puerto Ricans made much of the “price” that was paid by the political dissenters. Little, however, was said about the “greater price” that one American paid – Leslie Coffelt, the guard who was shot and killed by Collazo’s partner. Puerto Rico’s Governor, Carlos Romero Barcelo, also opposed the President. Barcelo could not get past the fact that the prisoners refused to admit their guilt and were unrepentant. He also urged that it would have been more intelligent to at least attach a "condition" to the commutations stating that the recipients would not commit or incite further acts of violence.

In a variety of ways, the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post hinted that the commutations might be “linked” to the first Democratic presidential primary that was to take place in Puerto Rico the following March. Everyone recognized that the 41 National Convention delegates at stake represented a fairly large number. Of course, there was at least one representative of the White House spokesperson who would go on the record with a variation of a standard response: “political considerations were pretty much out of the picture.”

But the accusations were similar to those made when Clinton's FALN pardons landed, in the shadow of his wife's campaign for the Senate. President Clinton had benefited from record Hispanic voter turnout in the 1996 election and, afterwards, the New York Daily News reported “top leaders” immediately began a “series” of meetings with White House aides to “press” for pardons. More importantly, from Mrs. Clinton’s standpoint, there were almost one million Puerto Ricans living in New York City. So, while the Washington Times pondered whether or not the President was blinded by “moral recklessness” or “amoral calculation,” the New York Times calmly guessed that his merciful act might “accrue” to his wife’s “political benefit” by “cementing her relationship with New York’s large Puerto Rican community.” Like other commentators, Michael Kelly of the Washington Post certainly had the opportunity to abruptly dismiss implied connections between Clinton’s use of the pardon power and the First Lady’s electoral fortunes. But Kelly could only agree that, while such suspicions might very well have been “absurd” with “any other” administration, the timing of the decision was “odd” and the Clinton administration was … different.

Different? Yes. But not that much different from that of Mr. Carter.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Context: Carter v. Clinton, Pot v. Kettle II

In a previous post - here - we noted the clumsy hypocrisy that surrounded former President Jimmy Carter's criticism of Bill Clinton's controversial, late-term pardons, including that of Marc Rich. We noted that Carter granted most of his pardons in the fourth year of his term as well and that he also granted clemency to a wealthy individual, Frederic B. Ingram, in the face of explicit protests by Department of Justice officials. But Carter's hypocrisy did not simply stretch to a single clemency decision.

Carter complained that a number of Clinton’s last-minute pardons were “quite questionable,” if not “disgraceful” because there was not “any doubt” that “some of the factors in [them] were attributable to large gifts.” Amazingly enough, the Associated Press propped up the criticism by noting that Carter granted no pardons “during the final weeks of his term.” (See AP's erroneous reporting here)

In fact, Carter granted about one third of all of his pardons in the fourth year of his term and over 80 pardons in his final six weeks in office (more than he had in any single month of his administration). On his last day as President, Carter granted pardons to nine individuals, including Peter Yarrow, singer of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, who also happened to be a long time Democratic Party supporter and "activist" (translation: major donor and party fundraiser). Amazingly, Yarrow had filed an application for the pardon just seven weeks earlier! And, yes, that means it was filed at just about the same point in the term in which the Marc Rich pardon application was filed (in Clinton's second term) ... and it traveled just as fast!

Three months after the Yarrow pardon, Parade magazine featured a letter which asked the obvious question to ask: what exactly Yarrow had done to require a pardon and whether or not Carter’s act of clemency was “a political payoff?” Walter Scott’s answer calmly noted Yarrow had “played many benefits for liberal politicians and causes.”

Monday, April 7, 2008

Context: Carter v. Clinton, Pot v. Kettle

Carol Felsenthal, who is writing a book about Bill Clinton in the post-Clinton era, has written an editorial about the strained relationship between Clinton and fellow former president Jimmy Carter. Along the way she notes:

... Jimmy Carter repaid Bill Clinton and then some by going his own way on foreign affairs in the 1990s; by publicly rebuking Clinton's morals when he was at his nadir; after Monica, after the Marc Rich pardon; in that schoolmarmish manner that only Carter can muster ...

Felsenthal's book will be out in May, so she is concerned that she does not "step on" her own material. Not having the same concerns, I thought I would step a few places I suspect she will not be stepping at all:

In a 2001 speech at Georgia Southwestern State University, Carter called Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich a “disgraceful” and “serious mistake.” Carter also told his audience that, as President of the United States, he “never” pardoned anyone without a “complete investigation" by the Justice Department and a recommendation in favor of clemency. Carter was also critical of the fact that so many of the Clinton’s pardons were granted late in the term. On the same day, Hamilton Jordan, the White House chief of staff during the Carter administration, wrote an editorial which appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Jordan rebuked Clinton for ignoring “certain procedures” that had been “honored and passed along from president to president.” He found it “extremely curious” that Clinton did not seek the “advice and perspective” of prosecuting attorneys in the Marc Rich case and suggested the “ethical atmosphere” of the Clinton White House had “sunk” to an “incredible” level where pardons were just another “perk of office.”

One would never have guessed from the speech and the editorial that Jimmy Carter had granted more individual pardons in the last year of his own administration than he had in any of the previous three years. Nor would one have guessed that Carter had granted his own controversial, late-term pardon to a wealthy individual, with “inside” connections, and in complete opposition to the clearly expressed wishes of officials in the Department of Justice. But that is exactly what happened.

In 1977, Frederic B., E. Bronson, and six others were indicted on 29 counts in a bribery scheme that grossed more than $40 million in profits for Ingram Corporation. The bribes were directed at members of the Metropolitan Sanitary District, a municipal corporation governed by an elected board of trustees, with primary responsibility for sewage disposal in Chicago and surrounding areas. After nine weeks of testimony from more than 50 prosecution witnesses and the presentation of the defense, five of the eight defendants, including 46-year-old Frederic B. Ingram, were convicted. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon B. Nash was officially recognized by the Justice Department for his outstanding work on the case.

Judge John F. Grady concluded Frederic and his co-defendants were “unmitigated by any moral principles whatsoever” and, on December 14, sentenced him to four years in federal prison. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments on the case in September of 1978 and issued a ruling the following March. As a result, Ingram did not actually begin serving his prison sentence until January 1, 1980. But before Frederic Ingram even served one of his four years, President Jimmy Carter exercised the pardon power and commuted the sentence to a mere 18 months. Carter signed the commutation warrant for Ingram on December 23, 1980, in the final days of his presidency.

A New York Times headline said Carter’s commutation stirred “anger.” A Washington Post editorial noted Carter’s late-term commutation contributed to a “near sonic boom in protests.” Thomas P. Sullivan, the United States attorney whose Chicago office prosecuted the case, would later say that he was “completely unaware” that Carter was “seriously considering” Ingram’s request for clemency. Sullivan called the commutation an “outrage” and reported that his office had filed no less than five objections to the application. The Times reported that the Justice Department’s Parole Commission had also recommended that Ingram serve his full sentence. Yet, as prominent as Carter’s decision was, at the time, it seemed to be all but forgotten when he and his former chief of staff publicly rebuked Bill Clinton in 2001.

See Felsenthal's editorial here.

South Dakota: Pardons

According to the State News Service, Governor Mike Rounds (R) has issued the following pardons which were requested through the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles : Lisa M. Wagner (charged with 2 counts of possession of a controlled substance in 1994). Jory Clow charged with 5 counts of second degree petty theft in 1999). James Brandt (possession of a controlled substance) Terry Hanson (2nd degree rape in 1985).

The President: Didn't See This One Coming!

The blogosphere never ceases to amaze. Here we learn that President Bush has pardoned my fellow Florida State alumnus Burt Reynolds for his participation in the artistically felonious Cannonball Run II. I cannot say that I support the President in this decision and I think the Office of the Pardon Attorney should release all supporting documents for the application ASAP. There had to be a violation of some rule or "guideline." Or, some process in the Department of Justice had to be bypassed. Something this outrageous does not just happen. Hat tip to Carbolic Smoke Ball.

Georgia: A Pardon Revisited

In August 2005, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles granted a pardon to Lena Baker. The Board believed Baker should have been charged with voluntary manslaughter instead of first-degree murder. The twist was that Baker had been denied clemency once before, back in 1945, and went on to became the only woman ever executed in Georgia's electric chair. Her final words were, " "What I done, I did in self-defense. I have nothing against anyone ... I am ready to meet my God." Actress Tichina Arnold is now playing Baker in "The Lena Baker Story," a featured film at the Atlanta Film Festival. See story here and here.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Arkansas: Clemency for No Conviction?

The 2006 mayoral election for Altus - where Gary Zolliecoffer thumped incumbent Veronica Post by a vote of 136 to 123 - is shaking up the political world. Zolliecoffer is accused of having violated state law by signing a pledge indicating he had never been convicted of a felony. Indeed, he was disqualified from office on the finding that he was convicted of burglary and grand larceny in 1965, when he was a mere lad, sixteen years of age. Zolliecoffer's attorney insists court files do not include a signed judgment and that there is no proof of a conviction. But, it is now reported that Zolliecoffer applied to a court for clemency in 2006, admitting to the crime in the accompanying paperwork. The Franklin County Election Commission has declared Zolliecoffer the official winner. But lawyers for Post note that he must be "commissioned” by Gov. Mike Beebe. That is to say, a document must be presented saying the mayor-elect is certified as rightful winner and entitled to be mayor. To date, that has not happened. See full story here. See additional background here and here.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Campaign 08: Mrs. Clinton's Taxes and Loans

ABC News Senior National Correspondent Jake Tapper is wondering about personal loans that Clintons have made in recent years. Here is an excerpt from his blog:

... according to Bill and Hillary's just-released tax returns from 2000-2006, the Clintons paid interest on loans to family members every year from 2001-2006.

... Who were these loans to and how much are they for? Were Roger, Tony and Hugh among the recipients? Clinton campaign spokesman Jay Carson politely says that's none of our bee's wax. "The Clintons made interest-free loans to some of their family members," Carson says. "The amount reported is imputed interest on those loans. The IRS requires that an amount of interest be assigned to interest-free loans; it then taxes the loan giver as if he or she actually received that 'imputed' interest. Thus, imputed interest is not actually paid by the loan recipient nor received by the loan giver. The loans to family members are personal; the Clintons are going to respect their family members’ privacy."

Roger Clinton received a presidential pardon from his brother; Tony and Hugh were involved in that pardon controversy. Is it really none of the public's business if Sen. Hillary Clinton and her husband "loaned" any of them money?

See story here.

Idaho: Request

Senator Mike Crapo (R) and Representative Mike Simpson (R) are requesting clemency for Sergeant Evan Vela who was convicted of killing an unarmed Iraqi civilian and planting evidence. Vela has maintained that he was following orders throughout the incident, which occurred in May 2007. Senator Simpson also has "strong concerns" regarding reports of Vela's "physical and mental conditions at the time." In Simpson's view, "There are a number of mitigating factors and extenuating circumstances in this case that make a compelling argument for clemency." See story here. Additional background on the case can be found here.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Montana: Rejection (Background)

On March 16, PardonPower posted material here on the case of Barry Beach, who was charged with murder in 1979 and sentenced to 100 years in prison. Tonight, Dateline NBC aired a broadcast on his case as well. The Dateline report can be found here.

Arkansas: Recommendations

The state parole board has recommended that Governor Mike Beebe grant 12 commutations of sentence, including 3 commutations of life sentences for three convicted murderers - Bobby Charles Nelson, Enous O'Neal Jr. and Jerry Sims - all of whom were convicted of first-degree murder (in 1972, 1972 and 1984 respectively). Nelson says that he is sorry for his actions, but explains that he was helping a friend in a fight. O'Neal claims he shot someone accidentally while hunting deer at night. The board also recommended that Beebe grant 15 pardons. See story here and here.

Virginia: Reprieve (Update)

Richard Timbrook, whose police son, Police Sgt. Rick L. Timbrook, was shot to death while chasing a suspect has criticized Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for delaying the execution of Edward Nathaniel Bell, his son's killer. Bell was convicted seven years ago. Timbrook says he left a message at the governor's office telling Kaine that he had the right to oppose the death penalty but "he didn't have the right to push his views" on others. Kaine committed himself to upholding the death penalty as a feature of Virginia's law during the 2005 campaign, but Timbrook says the Governor "bare-face lied to us" and is failing his "obligation to the people." See story here. See also: Virginia: Reprieve (Background, Update) and Virginia: Reprieve

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Scholarship: Modeling the Pardons Process

I have noted elsewhere that it is something of a tradition for law review articles to ignore the political science universe. It is much more rare, however, for political scientists attempting to publish in peer reviewed journals to ignore each other, especially if a particular field of research is new or highly specialized. So, far as I am aware, there have only been four articles published on the topic of federal executive clemency in social science journals since 1995. I am the author of three of those articles and the other authors are Andrew Whitford and Holoma Ochs. In that time, there have been several papers presented on the topic at the discipline's major conferences, most of which are readily available online.

In September of 2007, however, Presidential Studies Quarterly published an article entitled "Executive Clemency or Bureaucratic Discretion? Two Models of the Pardons Process," by H. Abbie Erler. The article is notable, in part, because it ignores three of the four articles mentioned above and every conference paper presented on the topic as well. In what must surely be considered a bizarre quirk in PSQ's peer review process, I am guessing (although I do not know with absolute certainty) that neither Whitford nor Ochs were consulted. I know I wasn't, despite the fact that two of my three articles were published in Presidential Studies Quarterly.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Kentucky: Progress

The Kentucky House has approved (80-14) a proposed constitutional amendment which would automatically restore voting rights for felons, removing the requirement that they obtain a pardon from the governor before they can vote. However, the proposal would not apply to those convicted of murder, first-degree manslaughter, rape, sodomy or a sex offense involving a minor. See story here.

Virginia: Reprieve (Background, Update)

Virginia has executed 98 people since 1976, a figure that is second only to the State of Texas. Since becoming governor in 2006, Timothy M. Kaine Kaine (D) has carried out four executions. He has issued three stays, but has yet to commute a death sentence. Yesterday, Kaine rescheduled Edward Nathaniel Bell's execution for July 24. It is hoped that, by that point in time, the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of lethal injection (in the case Baze v. Rees). A separate Virginia execution scheduled for next week and three others scheduled for July, will also be delayed. Meanwhile, 30 executions in other states have also been put on hold, dating back to September of last year, in apparent anticipation of the High Court's ruling. So, arguably, Virginia is simply lining up with everyone else. Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell (R) has called Kaine's decision “premature,” however, and suggests the decision to grant a stay is more appropriately a "legal decision to be made by a court.” As a gubernatorial candidate, Kaine professed that he was "personally opposed" to the death penalty but pledged that he would carry out the sanction if elected. See story here.

The President: The Market on Libby

According to a story here, NewsFutures.com is an Internet-based news prediction market that operates much like the stock market. Using a fake currency called X$, participants buy and sell shares at prices ranging from X$1 to X$100. Contracts are sold alongside shares for the opposite outcomes. If the event occurs, the shareholder receives X$100 for each share. The trading price of each share represents the probability traders collectively assign to the event occurring. If "President Bush will pardon Scooter Libby" is trading at X$73, for instance, it means participants believe there is a 73 percent chance the president will grant the pardon. Well, I guess that solves that.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Virginia: Reprieve

Governor Timothy M. Kaine today issued the following statement regarding the execution of Edward Nathaniel Bell and other scheduled executions in the Commonwealth of Virginia:

“On September 25, 2007, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case of Baze v. Rees in order to consider the constitutionality of using lethal injection as a method of execution. There has been no execution carried out in the United States since that date, as courts around the country await the Supreme Court’s ruling, which will likely be issued at some time before the middle of July. Approximately 30 execution dates in 13 states have been stayed in the interim, either by actions of the Supreme Court, lower federal courts, state courts or gubernatorial action. In one of these cases, the Supreme Court issued a stay of the October 17, 2007 scheduled execution of Christopher Scott Emmett in Virginia.

“In order to await the Supreme Court’s ruling in Baze, and respecting the national legal consensus that no execution go forward until that time, I grant a temporary reprieve of the execution date for Edward Nathaniel Bell, currently scheduled for April 8, until July 24, 2008. This temporary reprieve will allow for issuance of the Supreme Court decision and consideration of whether its outcome has any effect upon the merits of Mr. Bell’s legal claims or request for clemency.

“Stays in the final hours before an execution can take an emotional and physical toll on those who must prepare for the execution, including the family members of the victim or victims. In order to provide guidance to courts, litigants and the public, it is my intention, for the reasons expressed here, to grant a temporary delay of any execution date in Virginia that has been set after the conclusion of federal habeas corpus review and that is scheduled to occur before the Baze decision is rendered, unless the Supreme Court, by other ruling or action, specifies that executions may commence once again.”

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