Saturday, May 31, 2008

Context: Libby a Campaign Issue?

It is fairly common to see comments on blogs suggesting that there is no way that Scooter Libby will (or should be) an issue in the presidential election. I suppose much depends upon how one defines what an "issue" is. I do know this: Americans are notorious for forgetting notorious "controversial" pardons of the very worst sort with great speed. As a result, if pardons were ever an issue in previous presidential campaigns, then it would be forgotten as well. How many people remember the first presidential debate of October 6, 1996? A portion of it went like this:

Friday, May 30, 2008

Context: terHorst v. McClellan

In an editorial, George Weeks asks this question regarding Scott McClellan:

why, when he was resident propagandist, did he not take the honorable course taken by ex-White House Press Secretary Jerry terHorst?
terHorst resigned after Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon, but made his views on the matter know personally, privately, directly before he left the White House. Notes Weeks:

An hour before Ford's telecast announcing the pardon, terHorst handed Ford a manila envelope with a single sheet of typed White House stationary that said:

--¦ It is with great regret, after long soul-searching, that I must inform you that I cannot in good conscience support your decision to pardon former President Richard Nixon even before he has been charged with the commission of any crime. As your spokesman I do not know how I could credibly defend that action in the absence of a like decision to grant absolute pardons to the young men who evaded Vietnam military service as a matter of conscience and the absence of pardons for former aides and associates of Mr. Nixon who have been charged with crimes -- and imprisoned -- stemming from the same Watergate situation."

Weeks says it best, "What a contrast in class." See the Weeks editorial here.

Georgia: Moral Turpitude. It just depends ...

The State Constitution reads:
Anyone convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude cannot vote until they complete their sentence and pay all associated fees and fines.
The Secretary of State's Office interprets the above passage to refer to all felonies. As a result, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, over 280,000 felons in Georgia are "disenfranchised." Nancy Abudu, staff counsel for the ACLU Voting Rights Project also notes: "Given disparities in race and class, the population it affects the most is also the population that is also disparately impacted by criminal justice." The premise is based on the estimate that about half of the 280,000 felons are African-American.

Georgia: Former President Supports Clemency Bid

The Atlanta Journal Constitution is featuring an interesting article on Curtis Osborne who was convicted of double murder and is scheduled to be executed on June 4. Osborne's lawyers contend that his defense attorney (now dead) was "racially prejudiced." As a result, a "paltry defense" was presented and Osborne was not told of an offer to exchange a guilty plea for a life sentence. A federal appeals court has rejected a request for a new trial based on such claims. Now, the State parole board will hear a request for clemency, just a few days after it commuted the death sentence of Samuel David Crowe to life in prison. Attorneys will introduce the board to two former clients of the dead attorney who will say that they heard him use racial slurs.

The Constitution also reports
Former President Jimmy Carter, former deputy U.S. Attorney General Larry Thompson and former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher are sending letters to the board, requesting clemency for Osborne ...
Fletcher, says he remembers the defense attorney's "ineptness" and "shortcomings," but District Attorney Scott Ballard opposes clemency. A psychiatrist, George Woods, says that, if experts had been hired, a history of mental illness and "chemical dependency" in Osborne's family would have been given much-deserved attention. See story here.

Watch List: Conrad Black. Prison. The Plan.

The National Post (Canada) reports Conrad Black (see our Pardon Watch List) is teaching weekly seminars on American history at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex. The former press baron turned prison librarian is also reported to be appearing before a "full house" each week, as he serves out his 6½ year prison sentence.

But the Post also reports that a "grassroots" attempt to organize a pardon campaign for Lord Black "appears to have been stonewalled." Here is a great snippet:

"The attorneys in his camp are reticent. Nobody has made any effort or given any thought to doing this," said a Chicago-based official who met with Lord Black's legal team two months ago.

The plan was to present a dossier of information to John Dennis Hastert, Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 to 2007, the longest-serving Republican Speaker in U.S. history. The package was to include Lord Black's books on former presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, transcripts of the December, 2007, sentencing hearing, as well as 100 letters written in support of the convicted businessman. The letters were filed with trial Judge Amy St. Eve.

According to the Chicago-based official who asked not to be named, contact with Mr. Hastert would be facilitated through business associates, including the Goeken Group Corp., a Naperville, Ill.-based lighting technology and health care information company where Mr. Hastert was hired in March as a strategic advisor.

Ultimately, the goal was to convince Mr. Hastert, who has close ties to U.S. President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney, to personally deliver the package to the White House and make a plea on behalf of Lord Black. By that time, an official pardon application should have been filed with the Pardon Attorney's office at the Department of Justice by Lord Black's lawyers.

However, a source in Lord Black's camp said, "nothing would be done before the appeal," which is scheduled to be heard June 5 by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. "There are a lot of people in positions that could help. I don't think there's going to be a pardon Conrad Black committee," said the insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I think if anything happens, it's going to be very quiet."

Interesting stuff, indeed! Why even file the application with the Office of the Pardon Attorney? It isn't like Black qualifies for clemency under the Department of Justice's "guidelines." Of course, if no application is filed, then some presidential "spokesperson," somewhere down the line, can stand behind a podium and calmly say, "There is a formal process for clemency and Lord Black has not even filed an application." Other than the elimination of that classic executive branch rhetorical chess move, it all has a kind of Marc Rich feel to it! The Post then quotes an expert on presidential pardons (pay attention Chicago media!)
"This President has been very principled and sparing in his pardons," explained Margaret Colgate-Love, a former Department of Justice Pardon Attorney, responsible for recommending presidential pardons to the White House. "He has no track record that would lead anybody to expect that [Bush] would do something like that for Lord Black," she said.
See National Post story here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The President: McClellan Disappointed Re Libby

Sentencing Law and Policy is featuring a passage from Scott McClellan's new book re President Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby 's prison sentence. The link to Vanity Fair seems to be in and out, but here is the passage:

It’s … clear to me that Scooter Libby was guilty of the perjury and obstruction crimes for which he was convicted. When the president commuted Libby’s prison sentence and thereby protected him from serving even one day behind bars, I was disappointed. This kind of special treatment undermines our system of justice …. President Bush certainly has the right and the power to commute Libby’s sentence. But in choosing to do so, he sent an unfortunate message to America and the world — that in the United States criminal behavior on behalf of a political cause may go unpunished if those who support that cause have the power to make it happen.
The ellipses bother me a bit, but one can also see the full Sentencing Law and Policy post here.

Campaign 08: McCain and the Pardon Power

Over at Sentencing Law and Policy, there is commentary on Scott McClellan's new book, Scooter Libby and John McCain's views on things. I had actually started a post on McCain and the pardon power back in February and just never got around to proofing it up. This might be the time to let it out. Here is what I came up with:

* On January 26, 2001, Senator John McCain called Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich "a disgrace." But, then again, who didn't? I mean, other than Mrs Clinton - whose obfuscations can be enjoyed here.

* On July 17, 2004, McCain announced that he would join others in order to pursue a posthumous pardon for legendary boxer Jack Johnson, who violated the Mann Act in 1913. McCain believes Johnson "was an incredible athlete" who "made significant inroads for other African-American athletes" and that the "use of a law was perverted" when it sent such a "decent American to jail."

* On January 9, 2007, McCain was non-commital with respect to a possible presidential pardon for Scooter Libby, but said that he would give it "careful consideration" if prison time were in the mix. On March 6, 2007, McCain had no comment on Libby's conviction. Afterward, on June 6, 2007, he continued to say that it was important to just "see what happens" in the Libby case.

* When the Libby commutation finally landed, July 3, 2007, McCain was asked if he had any comment. The response was a simple, "Nope." Then, two months later, on September 3, 2007, he accused President Bush of dodging a tough decision saying, "I’m very reluctant to second-guess, but I have to say I would have pardoned him or not pardoned him.” Anyone else see anything humorous about that quote?!

* Mike Huckabee, who appears to be under consideration as McCain's running mate noted, in January that, if he (Huckabee) were elected president, he would pardon U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean. Huckabee said he would make the pardon his "first act." But McCain has not taken a position on the agents to date. Maybe it is safe to say that McCain will either pardon, or not pardon, them!

Updated 5/31/08

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Mexico: Sentencing Reconsideration to Negate Need for Clemency?

PardonPower has reported on the case of Elton John Richard since late February. Richard plead no contest to manslaughter for shooting and killing one Daniel Romero in 2004 and was sentenced to two years in prison. Romero was allegedly caught breaking into Richard's car. By February 26, Governor Bill Richardson's office was being bombarded with e-mails calling for executive clemency (Richard is a former Marine and Iraq war veteran - see post here). Three days later, the Governor publicly called on Judge Albert "Pat" Murdoch to reconsider the sentence (see post here). Now, at last, the judge is set to hear such a motion. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the governor's office said: "Governor Richardson continues to follow this case closely and is pleased the judge has agreed to reconsider Mr. Richard's sentence." The district attorney has also declared that she does not oppose a reconsidering of the sentence. See story here.

Oklahoma: Rejection

This morning, the five-member state Pardon and Parole Board voted unanimously to deny clemency for death row inmate Terry Lyn Short. Short's scheduled execution is June 17th. In 1995, he threw a homemade firebomb into the apartment of his ex-girlfriend and killed another tenant (a Japanese exchange student) in the process. Short told the Board (by video hookup from the penitentiary) that he did not know the man that he killed and did not intend to kill him. See story here.

Watch List: Why George Ryan Will/Will Not Be Pardoned

With an eye toward weighing relevant factors and perhaps being a little amusing as well, here are the reasons, as I see them, that former Illinois Governor George Ryan will / or will not be pardoned by President Bush. Readers are invited to do the calculation on their own. And witty suggestions will certainly be welcomed (and added).

Why He Will Be Pardoned

* He is 74-years old
* He has health problems (Crohn's disease and diabetes)
* "The man has gone from being the governor of the state of Illinois to being a prisoner in the federal penitentiary. His career is gone. His reputation is gone. His pension for the moment is gone. . . . I think everybody's interests have been served" - James Thompson
* Ryan was quite generous with pardons himself
* A clemency petition will be supported by notables
* President Bush is also a Republican
* President Bush is a not-so-popular Republican who can relate to the plights of other not-so-popular Republicans
* There is an upward trend in the number of pardons and commutations across Bush's administration
* It is the fourth year of the President's term (when most presidents have granted their highest number of pardons)
* "Controversy" could be easily neutralized by pardoning some convicted Democratic governor as well (and there are plenty of them out there)
* Because any "controversy" that follows will largely be the narrow uphill effort of partisan critics trying to fulfill their own prophesies about the potential harm of "controversy" they will attempt to create
* Dan Rostenkowski, Mel Reynolds and Dorothy Rivers (yesterday's lettuce, no one cares, all of them were from Illinois and clemency on their behalf had zero impact)
* Chandra Gill and Sharon Latiker (current news, the here and the now)
* Linking corruption to the State of Illinois might not be the best PR in the world for one presidential candidate (details schmetails!)
* The Office of the Pardon Attorney has a huge backlog and could stand to do some application dumping
* Bush will not allow his clemency legacy to be summarized by mere reference to Scooter Libby
* Because George Ryan was identified on the Pardon Watch List way back in November of 2007 as a "could be" (see List here)

Why He Will Not Be Pardoned

* Charles Manson is also 74-years old
* Manson does not appear to be in the best of health either (just not the same since the failed Monkees audition)
* Because President Bush wants to preserve his spotless, criticism-free legacy in the White House
* It is an election year and Bush would not want to shock millions of Americans by alerting them, for the very first time, to the possibility that corruption might somehow be associated with politics in the State of Illinois
* Richard Leche, Warren McCray and Marvin Mandel are currently unable to roll over in their graves
* Because Bush is a Republican (they tend to pardon less)
* Because Bush is a former governor (they tend to pardon less)
* Because Bush followed Clinton's pardon disasters
* The Office of the Pardon Attorney has a huge backlog and getting around to a Ryan application might take years
* By January of 2009, Ryan will have only served 15 months of his 78-month sentence

Watch List: To Boldy Go Where No Reporter Has Gone ...

The Chicago Sun Times appears to now be in competition with the cross-town rival Tribune for asking non-clemency experts their opinion about federal executive clemency. David Yellen, the dean at the Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, who has a bang-up resume on sentencing and juvenile justice, says (of a possible pardon or commutation of sentence for former Illinois Governor George Ryan):
"It's good timing for Gov. Ryan to be asking for something like this now. Presidents tend to use those powers more when they're on their way out."
Or maybe another way to think of it is everyone in Chicago is an expert on clemency! See story here.

Watch List: Tribune Actually Finds Real Clemency Expert!

Hats off to Mary Owen, who has written a story on a possible presidential pardon (or commutation of sentence) for former Illinois Governor George Ryan (R). Owen, writing for the Chicago Tribune, notes Ryan has served almost 7 months of his 6 1/2 -year prison sentence. She also reports that his chief defense attorney, former Illinois Gov. James Thompson (R), has revealed that the clemency request that will be sent to President Bush "will emphasize Ryan's age, years of public service and health" (Ryan suffers from Crohn's disease and diabetes). Thompson says it is his belief that "any president of the United States—whether it's President Bush or President Obama or President Clinton—would look at this petition and say, 'I think justice would be served by letting him go,' "

Comment: Land of Lincoln Not High on Ryan Pardon

John Kass has graced the Chicago Tribune with an editorial that is hard to beat for sheer over- the-top hyperbole. He writes that former Governor George Ryan "got more than a fair trial," indeed he got a trial that was "more fair than any defendant" Kass has ever seen (no sample size is reported). Kass also complains that Ryan deserved more that the six and a half year prison sentence that he got - which, the cynic might note, seems to suggest some aspect of the case wasn't so fair after all. Says Kass:

So if Bush pardons Ryan, Illinois taxpayers can ask only that the former governor's arms be sewn shut, in a circle, draped over Bush's neck and fixed there, the hulk and weight of Ryan's bulk to hang against the president for years.
Not likely, Mr. Kass. Political memory will die just as fast as it always has. You can bet on it. Why, Ryan was a rosey cheeked choir boy compared to Richard Leche. But who has every heard of Richard Leche? Need we even ask who pardoned him? Of course not. Marvin Mandel. Who? J. Fife Symington? Zzzzz. No need to get too upset about all of this.

Kass notes President Bush "commuted the sentence" (meaning "commuted the prison sentence") of Scooter Libby who was convicted during the investigation of the outing of a CIA officer (meaning "an investigation which resulted in no one being charged, much less convicted, for having committed an underlying crime") for political reasons by the Bush White House" (meaning "outed by Richard Armitage, a critic of the War in Iraq"). In Kass' view, "To do the same for Ryan would not only be amazingly cynical and coercive, but it would destroy what little remains of the Illinois GOP."

I am guessing - given the very odd construction of the Scooter Libby case - preserving what little remains of the Illinois GOP is not a very high priority for Kass. But the notion that pardoning Ryan would have a significant impact on Illinois politics is fanciful and clearly wishful thinking. The State GOP has been in terrific disarray for some time now and the candidacy of Barack Obama overshadows anything and everything related to George Ryan. A Ryan pardon (or commutation) will be in and out of the pages of the Tribune in a matter of days, maybe even less than a week. The pardon of Dan Rostenkowski - Oh yeah, remember him? And what was he charged with? - hardly put a dent in the pages of the newspapers of Illinois.

In addition, Kass' ultimate dream neglects the fact that the current Governor (Blagojevich, a Democrat) is his own can of worms. The citizens of Illinois are not discussing recall because the Democrats are standing on the corpse of the Republicans. When all is said and done, Blagojevich's pardons might very well get as much attention as a George Ryan pardon. And Blagojevich's non-use of the pardon power has already gotten (and will continue to get) attention from the federal court system.

Buying into the melodrama, former state Sen. Steven Rauschenberger (R) says an act of clemency on behalf of George Ryan would "remind everybody about the drawn-out trial, the whole process to rid Illinois of that kind of pay-to-play politics." For that reason, he also says:
"I would ask that President Bush not consider a pardon or commutation of sentence for Gov. Ryan. As a state, we've been through enough. As a party, we've been through enough."
One wonders how Abraham Lincoln might have responded to such commentary. No pardon for Ryan because the State Party has been through enough. Wow. Now that is a compelling justification. See the Kass editorial here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Virginia: Rejection

The Washington Post reports:

Convicted killer Kevin Green was scheduled to be put to death at 9 p.m. Earlier tonight, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down his request for a stay of execution and Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) denied a petition for clemency. He said he had carefully reviewed the case but found "no compelling reason to set aside the sentence that was recommended by the jury.''

See story here.

Oklahoma: Final Appeal

Terry Lyn Short was sentenced to death for killing a 22-year old Japanese student in Oklahoma City in 1995 and he is scheduled to die by lethal injection on June 17th. But first, the State's five-member Pardon and Parole Board will hear from Short via video link from death row. The Board will also hear presentations from Short's attorneys, the attorney general's office and anyone representing the victim. It will then decide whether to recommend clemency to Gov. Brad Henry (D). See story here.

Watch List: Ryan's Appeal Rejected

The Chicago Tribune reports that the U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, has turned down the appeal of former Illinois Governor George Ryan, who is serving a 6 1/2-year sentence for fraud, racketeering and corruption conviction. Lead prosecutor Patrick Collins says, "The long legal saga of this case is over" - which is, of course, silly. Collins must not be familiar with our Pardon Watch List (where Ryan's name has appeared for many months now). In a moment of greater clarity, Collins editorialized that a presidential pardon would be a disappointment" because it would "send a terrible message to the public about the consequences of public corruption." The former Governor, who maintains his innocence, is 74-years old and suffers from Crohn's disease and diabetes. As a result, the public may be open to more than one "message." See Tribune story here.

Virginia: The "Politics" of an Execution

The State of Virginia appears to be headed toward the execution of Kevin Green and the "politics" of the situation could not be more dynamic. Governor Timothy M. Kaine (D) personally opposes the death penalty. He did not hide this position during his gubernatorial campaign, but promised that, if elected, he would objectively enforce the laws of his state - which so allow for the penalty. Of course, Kaine's opponents were skeptical.

When the U.S. Supreme Court decided to review the constitutionality of lethal injection (the method employed in Virginia), Kaine decided to place a temporary moratorium on executions in the state. Kaine, of course, argued that he was reasonably erring on the side of caution. And several other states had already done the same thing. But Kaine's critics were quick to shout "AH-HAAA!" In their minds, the campaign promises were pure hot air, null and void. When the Court's final ruling let lethal injection stand, however, Governor Kaine lifted his temporary reprieve, allowing for today's scheduled execution of Mr. Green.

Kevin Green's lawyers argue that their client is mentally disabled and deserves a commutation of sentence (to life in prison). From the standpoint of Governor Kaine, it seems that the pertinent question is not whether or not Mr. Green is mentally disabled so much as it is this: "Is it reasonable to conclude that he might be." If so, a commutation of his death sentence seems quite appropriate, regardless of the certain mass and predictable intensity of the "AH-HAAA"s to follow.

Kaine never promised to execute everyone on the state's "death row" no matter what. And no governor (or candidate) ever should.

The President: Post on the New Pardon Attorney

Today's Washington Post features a story by Carrie Johnson which focuses on the task facing the new U.S. Pardon Attorney, Ronald L. Rogers. Among other things, the article notes:
Rodgers inherited a stack of nearly 2,000 requests for pardons and commutations of prison sentences in the waning months of the president's administration, a time when pressure to exercise the clemency power intensifies. "If there's ever been a time when the pardon attorney should have an impact, this is it," said P.S. Ruckman Jr., an associate professor at Rock Valley College in Illinois who studies clemency patterns.
The article notes that "about half a dozen lawyers assist Rodgers in the small office" and, as a result, "the processing and evaluation of these cases takes significant time and in many cases, several years." The article also offers this prognostication:
Lawyers who represent clients seeking pardons and scholars who research clemency said they do not expect Bush, who has granted few such requests as president and in his previous role as Texas governor, to do an about-face during his last months in office.
"About-face" has an accordion-like quality to it. But I think one has to admit that there is something very much like an upward trend here. This would explain why a "department spokesman" has revealed that, this year, the Pardon Attorney's office is on a "record-setting pace" for clemency petitions.The Post piece also observes the President Bush has pardoned 157 people and commuted the sentences of six more. Meanwhile, 1,429 pardon applications have been denied and so have 5,683 requests for commutation of sentence. Former U.S. Pardon Attorney Margaret Colgate Love also says:
"I don't think this president has taken the pardon power very seriously, and I don't see any indication that's going to change. I'm just waiting for the next administration. I'm not looking for anything from this one."
See today's Washington Post story here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pending Executions. Clemency Opportunities.

Capital Defense Weekly has a listing of "Pending Executions" and it appears that the next few weeks will provide plenty of opportunity for clemency discussion.

27 Kevin Green - Va.

3 Derrick Sonnier - Tex.
6 David Hill - SC
10 Percy Walton - Va
11 Karl Chamberlain - Tex
17 Charles Hood -Tex.
17 Terry Lynn Short - Okla
25 Robert Yarbrough - Va

1 Mark Schwab - Fl.
10 Carlton Turner - Tex.
14 Eric Hanson - Ill
14 Tamir Hamilton - Nev
15 Darrell Robinson - La
15 Antoinette Frank - La
18 Joseph Ries - Tex.
22 Lester Bower - Tex.
28 Gregory Decay - Ark.
31 Larry Davis - Tex.

5 Jose Medellin - Tex.
14 Michael Rodriguez - Tex.
20 Denard Manns - Tex.
21 Jeff Wood -Tex.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Time Out: For A Little Horn-Tooting

  PardonPower graced the world wide web with its first post on January 9, 2008. Today, according to SiteMeter's fairly conservative measuring device, the blog has welcomed 10,000 visitors and enjoyed well over 23,000 page views. According to Quantified Publisher, almost half of the blog's visitors are "regulars" and 2-3 percent are ... "addicts" (I think they mean that in a good way).

The blog's "authority," according to Technocrati, is 16. Yeah. Don't ask me what that means. I do know that most guitar amps only go up to 10. So, there ya go. On the other hand, it has been fun to see all of the daily visits the blog gets from the various departments of the government in Washington D.C. and, of course, our pals at the Washington Post :-)

In just 5 short months, there have been posts related to clemency decisions (or non-decisions) in almost every state in the Union (see "Blog Posts By State" category on the right side bar). And, of course, federal cases have received attention as well. Overall, it is very encouraging. The blog appears to have an audience and is fulfilling a need. The comments that have been submitted to date have also been courteous and, sometimes, very insightful. On top of all of that, there is certainly no better place for one to see both scholarship and original data on federal executive clemency.

A very special "thanks" to the more established fellow bloggers for the recognition they have provided along the way: Sentencing Law and Policy, Grits for Breakfast, StandDown Texas Project, J-Walk Blog, Capital Defense Weekly, Crime and Consequences. Many thanks to others that link here as well: The General Blog of Crime, The Law Office of Margaret Colgate Love, The Law Firm of Tamara N. Holder, Prison Resources and Links, Publishers Marketplace, Z-The Legal Blog, etc.

It has been fun. Now, we are on to our first 100,000!

Campaign 08: What Terrorists?

Ben Adler at notes that President Clinton's clemency offer to 16 Puerto Rican nationalists who belonged to FALN (an organization responsible for more than 100 bombings in the U.S. and Puerto Rico between 1974 and 1983) has not been "an issue" this year. Kenneth McClintock, president of the Senate in Puerto Rico and co-chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign there says it is a "highly charged issue" and that "there has been a desire to get past that conflict.” Yeah, no kidding. And who needs to be anywhere near a "highly charged issue" when in the middle of a hotly-contested, critical presidential campaign? It is simply inappropriate!

Context: Hamilton Jordan, R.I.P.

Hamilton Jordan, political strategist and the very closest personal advisor to Jimmy Carter died this week. He was 63-years old. Jordan made a run for the U.S. Senate after Ronald Reagan won the presidency and worked for Ross Perot in 1992. He was also in on the hefty criticism that Bill Clinton received in 2001.

In a 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.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Campaign 08: Paglia in the Bull's Eye!

Camille Paglia has written a piece on Hillary Clinton (here) which notes that Mrs. Clinton "never found a way to succeed without her husband's connections, advice, and intervention" but also summarizes the point that PardonPower and others have been making for months:
For all her claims of media bias and ill treatment by her male fellow candidates, Hillary has got off absurdly softly in this campaign. No one — neither her rivals nor mainstream journalists — has had the guts to explore or even list the bursting catalogue of past Clinton scandals, in which Hillary was nearly always hip deep.
Doesn't get much better than that.

Virginia: Clemency for Kevin Green?

Here is more insight on Kevin Green's clemency application and the case in general from The Virginia Pilot:

... Green's IQ has been listed as 65, 10 points below what is generally considered the threshold for mental retardation. But two federal judges in Norfolk determined that Green did not qualify as mentally retarded under the Supreme Court's and Virginia's two-prong test. While his IQ is considered to be in the range for mental retardation, Green exceeded the minimum standard for the second prong, which looks at his "conceptual, social and practical skills," according to the judges' rulings. Those skills include use of language, the ability to handle money and keep a job, self-direction and his relationships with others.

His attorneys say Green, 31, could not hold a job while he was free, can't read, doesn't know how to use a phone and was unable to hold on to his driver's license. Though he had a girlfriend, she had to take care of him as if he were a child, they said. "He is, beyond a doubt, mentally retarded, and his execution would be unconstitutional," said Washington lawyer Sarah Wilson, who filed the clemency petition with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine. Kaine had not acted on the petition as of Friday. A spokesman for the governor declined to comment on the Green case.

The governor last year halted the execution of Percy Walton, a convicted triple murderer, based on questions of his mental capacity. Those issues seemingly resolved, Walton is now scheduled to be executed next after Green, on June 10. Green has shown no remorse for his actions that day in August 1998 at Lawrence's Grocery. (He was also tried and acquitted of the murder that year of another convenience-store merchant.)

... At his sentencing in 2002, Green told the judge: "You want to know if I have any remorse? No, I don't. I'm ready to die."

... Virginia hasn't executed anyone since November 2006. Kaine, who personally opposes the death penalty but has said he will not stand in the way of the law, has allowed four executions to go forward but has halted several others. Most recently, he issued a brief moratorium on executions in April while the Supreme Court decided the legality of lethal injection. After the court found lethal injection to be
constitutional, Kaine lifted the moratorium.

See previous posts here and here

Friday, May 23, 2008

New York: Visionary "Slick Rick" Pardoned

Gov. David A. Paterson (who is legally blind) has announced that he has pardoned Ricky Walters, (aka "Slick Rick," "MC Ricky D" and "Rick the Ruler") who was convicted of attempted murder in 1991 and also happens to wear a patch over one eye blinded as a result of a childhood injury. Walters was released from prison in 1997, but faces deportation. The New York Times describes Walters as "a 43-year-old hip-hop pioneer." The Governor's statement read, part:

Mr. Walters has fully served the sentence imposed upon him for his convictions, had an exemplary disciplinary record while in prison and on parole, and has been living without incident in the community for more than 10 years. In that time, he has volunteered at youth outreach programs to counsel youth against violence, and has become a symbol of rehabilitation for many young people ...

In 1991, Mr. Walters pleaded guilty in Bronx County Supreme Court to two counts of attempted murder and eight weapons offenses arising from an incident in which Walters shot his cousin and an innocent bystander, both of whom survived the shooting. Walters’ cousin had made previous threats against Walters, and Walters believed his cousin had arranged at least one previous attempt on his life. Mr. Walters, who was 25 years old at the time of the incident, was sentenced to a term of 3⅓ to 10 years in prison ...

... He is presently employed as a landlord and rap musician. Mr. Walters has a wife and two children, all of whom are American citizens.

International musicologists will recall the lyrics of Slick's Beethovenesque Behind Bars, (not to be confused with the more Wagnerian Treat Em Like a Prostitute) in which Slick says, "In the slammer kid but I'm innocent." Symbol of rehabilitation indeed! See story here and here.

Michigan: Data

On May 14, the Associated Press reported the following:

The number of clemency requests granted by Michigan governors in the last 40 years:
Democrat Jennifer Granholm, 2003-present, 23 commutations in nearly 5 1/2 years.
Republican John Engler, 1991-2002, commuted 34 sentences over 12 years.
Democrat James Blanchard, 1983-1990, commuted six sentences over eight years.
Republican William Milliken, 1969-1982, commuted 95 sentences over 14 years.
Source: Michigan Department of Corrections

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Georgia: Last-Minute Commutation of Sentence!

Three hours before the state was about to execute Samuel David Crowe, the 5-member Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles commuted his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. As of yet, the Board has not provided an official justification or explanation for its decision. It is reported, however, that Crowe "takes full responsibility for his crime and experiences profound remorse." See article here.

Campaign 08: Quindlen Blind on Mrs. Clinton

Today, Anna Quindlen writes an editorial which begins by saying:

ON his last night as president of the United States, Bill Clinton issued a pardon for a man named Marc Rich. Later, Clinton would write a long op-ed piece on the reasons, but the reason seemed obvious to observers: the fugitive financier was what just plain folks call stinking rich, and his ex-wife had given nearly a half-million dollars to Clinton's presidential library. Even the president's customary allies did not find it in their hearts to justify his action.

Yet, in some way, the pardon was an apt coda to an administration that seemed to veer from constructive to self-destructive so often that the American people developed whiplash.

The Family and Medical Leave Act, and Monica Lewinsky. The elimination of the deficit, and the Rich pardon. The supremely eloquent speaker, and the man who said: "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." Bill giveth, Bill taketh away, mainly from his own reputation. A presidency with an ace domestic agenda somehow became a dizzying slip-and-slide that made you want to scream: Legacy, legacy, legacy, legacy, legacy.
Quinlen goes on to say that she figured Hillary Clinton to be "more highly disciplined" than her husband and, well, just "better" than all of that. But, alas, Quindlen bemoans the fact that it is now Mrs. Clinton's "turn" to go "down a dark road from a Democratic perspective." Yes, Mrs. Clinton is "an historic figure" who has smashed the "glass ceiling" for future female candidates and all that. But, amazingly, Quindlen is all too blind as she writes:

When her husband pardoned Marc Rich, one supporter said it was no worse than what the Republicans had done in the past. That's not what I call a defence. And it's no kind of legacy for a woman as formidable as Hillary Clinton.
How can a person so intelligent as Quindlen not see that Bill and Hillary are apples and apples? Why, the Marc Rich pardon was no more controversial than the pardon controversies surrounding Hillary's brothers (Hugh and Tony) and her campaign treasurer (see discussion here). Is it possible that Quindlen has not heard of Hillary's involvement with outrageous pardons granted to the Hasidic Jews in New Square New York? Was Quindlen away on vacation when Mrs. Clinton did her own whiplash PR campaign in the aftermath of the FALN commutations - first calling on her husband to withdraw the clemency offer, then "reaching out" to angry community leaders that might cost her the election to the U.S. Senate? Every time Hillary Clinton said, "I don't know anything," and accepted envelopes that people put into her hands to pass along to high ranking government officials without asking any questions, it was perfect harmony to Bill's classic deposition gnosticism.

"Discipline" is just not the proper word to describe what is on display when the Clintons play politics. A disciplined candidate would have never even thought to be critical of Barack Obama for being associated with a former Weather Underground member. There was nothing in that territory for Mrs. Clinton but quick-sand and an instant rhetorical mauling. A disciplined candidate would have just sat back and kept the old mouth shut when Scooter Libby's prison sentence was commuted. But Mrs. Clinton just had to issue this statement:

Today's decision is yet another example that this Administration simply considers itself above the law. This case arose from the Administration's politicization of national security intelligence and its efforts to punish those who spoke out against its policies. Four years into the Iraq war, Americans are still living with the consequences of this White House's efforts to quell dissent. This commutation sends the clear signal that in this Administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice.
Oh the humanity! The horror! We're gonna need a bigger boat! For one brief moment, Ted Kennedy's post-Robert Bork nomination BS bomb had to take a back seat. There was a new champ. Mrs. Clinton was offended by the intersection of "cronyism and ideology" and the pardon power. Heavens! Forget about all of those pardons to Roger Clinton (Clinton's brother), Susan McDougal (Clinton's former business partner), Henry Cisneros (D- Clinton's HUD Secretary), Arnold Prosperi (who managed Clinton's student council president campaign in college), John Deutch (Clinton's CIA Director), John Fife Symington (who saved Clinton from drowning at a 60s beach party), Richard Riley Jr. (the son of Clinton's Education Secretary), Dan Rostenkowski (D) and Mel Reynolds (D)!

Yes, cronyism. Intolerable stuff!

It all demonstrates that Mrs. Clinton got much more than phenomenal name recognition, a hefty joint banking account and all of that political "experience" from her husband who - if you take a second to think about it - first catapulted himself to national prominence by talking and talking and talking, and not seeming to know when to shut up (while nominating Michael Dukakis at the Democratic National Convention). See Quindlen's full editorial here.

Mississippi: Words. Words. Words.

Jimmy Simmons (Chickasaw County Sheriff): "He knew exactly what he was doing. Anybody who seen that lady up there with a shoeprint still in the side of her face ... I can still see it like it was yesterday."

Chris Epps (Department of Corrections Commissioner): "I used to be his case manager. So, I've been knowing him for a while. He's pretty serious now. He's not grinning like he was in October."

Earl Wesley Berry (the executed): "No comment."

Gov. Haley Barbour: "Justice has finally been rendered for this horrible crime."

Jena Watson (daughter of the victim): "I know a lot of people want to know what was going through my mind. As I watched that process, I kept thinking how much more humane capital punishment is than what my mother suffered. He was just lying there, and then he went to sleep."

Tom O'Flaherty (former defense attorney): "People are represented by lawyers, and they make mistakes. Judges and juries make mistakes. None of us can know for sure if a person deserves that penalty."

See story here.

Virginia: More Appeals to the Gov.

James W. Ellis, past president of the American Association on Mental Retardation, and the executive directors of ARC of Virginia, ARC of the United States and the American Association on Intellectual And Developmental Disabilities have written a seven-page letter to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) arguing that Kevin Green is mentally disabled. The letter thus requests that Green's death sentence (for murder) be commuted to "a sentence of life in prison." The letter argues that Green "clearly has substantial deficits in adaptive behavior." Among other things it is observed that he cannot sign his name, pay bills, read newspapers or tell a story coherently. However, a federal magistrate judge found Green had a savings account, paid his own rent, purchased money orders, profited from drug deals, obtained a driver's license and hid much of his criminal activities from loved ones.

Jurors at Green's 2001 trial also heard an expert say Green was mentally disabled, but another expert said he simply had a personality disorder and was pretending to be less intelligent than he is. Later, the State Supreme Court dismissed the retardation claim as "frivolous." The same claim was then dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge and a federal appeals court. Observers note the Governor allowed the execution of Brandon Wayne Hedrick in 2006 even though his lawyers said there was evidence Hedrick was mentally disabled. See story here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Campaign 08: Peter O'Toole Says It Best For Me!

Campaign 08: Libertarian Pardons

According to this story, Libertarian presidencial candidate Christine Smith (a singer, model, author, markswoman, chess player and whiskey drinker) will - if elected - "pardon everyone jailed for non-violent marijuana offenses." Or, as her web page puts it:
I will end the 'War on Drugs.' I will end the suffering, deaths, and injustice imposed upon Americans by this insane policy.The 'War on Drugs,' in the opinion of many experts, including many in law enforcement itself, is not only a failure...but one which fills our prisons with non-violent offenders, eating up our tax dollars better spent elsewhere, while accomplishing very little benefit to society (just as the Prohibition of alcohol in the 1920's).

By executive order I intend to pardon people who have harmed no other person (but possibly themselves) and are now incarcerated due to non-violent drug offenses. Only three crimes, treason, piracy and counterfeiting, are within the constitutional authority of the federal government; other laws making more 'crimes' under their jurisdiction will be eliminated.

We cannot and must not use the force of the federal government to try and protect people from themselves. Laws and our law enforcement should be used only to protect us from those who would directly harm us. All other matters, such as drug addiction, should be left to communities, families and individuals to address to help bring healing to those who seek assistance...not criminalized which leads to suffering, breakup of families, and violence. All individuals personal choices, as long as it harms no other, must never be criminalized.
Meanwhile, PardonPower has not yet heard from Bob Barr.

Mississippi: Down to the Wire

Amnesty International said in a statement today that there is "significant evidence" that Earl Wesley Berry "may have mental retardation." For that reason the organization is calling on Gov. Haley Barbour (R) to grant clemency and halt Berry's execution later today. Barbour indicated on Monday, however, that he will not do so. At the time of this posting, Berry is spending his final hours in a holding cell. His only hope appears to be intervention by the United States Supreme Court or, more particularly, Justice Antonio Scalia.

Pennsylvania: Prozac Murder?

Kurt Danysh is serving a 22.5-60-year sentence for shooting his 51-year old father in the head after his supply of Prozac ran out. Danysh says he does not remember even pulling the gun out. He also says that he has not yet "forgiven" himself, but that he has "come to terms with what happened." Now Danysh is seeking clemency as he tries to "raise awareness" about possible effects of Prozac and other antidepressant drugs. An attorney from the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers says seeking a clemency is a difficult and time-consuming process, requiring a unanimous vote by the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons in order to get the governor to even consider the application. He also explains that, in 2007, "the governor granted 105 clemencies out of 138 clemency applications recommended by the board," but the board received over 650 applications. Pardon board Secretary John Heaton agrees that it is "quite a lengthy" process and notes that it has taken as long as two years for the board to review a request. See story here.

Texas: Controversial Release

Last November, Pablo Soto was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder of his grilfriend, Socorro Storie. Soto rammed Storie's parked car head-on with his own automobile, then dragged her out of the car and beat her. She died from injuries three days later. But Soto, who has been diagnosed with cancer, recently appeared before a pardon and parole board in a "terminally ill inmate hearing." Afterward, Soto, who has never expressed regret or remorse for the murder, walked away from prison after serving only six months! A Garza County Sheriff says he no idea Soto would be released and the family of the victim was not notified until after the decision either. Garza County District Attorney Ricky Smith plans to file a formal complaint with the state. The state's board of pardons and paroles is not yet returning calls. See story here and here.

Virginia: Application Before Gov. Kaine

Kevin Green will be probably be executed May 27 at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt unless Gov. Tim Kaine (D) responds to an application for clemency from his attorneys. The U.S. Supreme Court has also been asked to review the case, just after 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request for a stay on Monday. In 1998, Green shot a married couple who owned and operated a store and fled the scene with about $9,000. The wife survived, but the husband died. See full story here.

Georgia: One Last Hearing?

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles is set to hear an appeal for clemency on Thursday from lawyers representing Samuel David Crowe, a convicted murderer. As it happens, Thursday is also the day that Crowe is scheduled to be executed. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Crowe's appeal for a stay on Tuesday as his lawyers challenged the way Georgia administers the three-drug "cocktail" for lethal injection. A stay of execution is also being sought in the Georgia Supreme Court.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ford Pardons Nixon. Goes Golfing.

Here is a fun snippet from an article in the new Golf Digest that Prof. Berman over at Sentencing Law and Policy (and The Golf Blog) would probably enjoy:

Ford tried admirably to be both. Just a couple of days after giving an unconditional pardon to former president Richard M. Nixon, Ford appeared Sept. 11, 1974, at the dedication of the World Golf Hall of Fame in Pinehurst, N.C., keeping a commitment he had made before his sudden promotion. Ford spoke at the dedication ceremonies, played nine holes with several of the hall of famers and attended a gala dinner that evening. "This afternoon, for a few hours, I tried to make a hole-in-one," Ford said. "Tomorrow morning, I'll be back in Washington trying to get out of one."
See full article here.

Insights: Battered Women and Clemency in Michigan

  Carol Jacobsen is an award-winning social documentary artist whose works in video and photography address issues of women's criminalization and censorship. Her art has been exhibited and screened at venues worldwide. In addition to her teaching responsibilities in art and women's studies at the University of Michigan, Jacobsen serves as Director of the Michigan Women's Justice and Clemency Project (formerly the Michigan Battered Women's Clemency Project). In that capacity, she advocates for the human rights of women prisoners and seeks freedom for women wrongly incarcerated. Her projects have been sponsored by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, COYOTE, Women's Prison Association of New York, the American Civil Liberties Association, and other non-profit organizations. PardonPower asked Prof. Jacobsen about her work:

PardonPower: Was there a particular event, or series of events which led up to the creation of the Michigan Battered Women's Clemency Project and/or how did you come to be associated with the Project?

Watch List: Aikens to Go Home?

According to this report, Willie Mays Aikens has moved for an order reducing his sentence now that new guidelines by the U.S. Sentencing Commission have taken effect. Aikens was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison in 1994 for distribution of crack. An additional 5 years were added when a gun was found in his home. But the stipulation recently filed in federal court in Kansas City shows agreement between Aikens’ attorney and the government that the appropriate sentence under the new guidelines should be no more than 121 months, in addition to his 5-year consecutive sentence for the gun. That could make the 53-year-old Aikens eligible for immediate release. Two attempts at a presidential pardon have been declined by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Forthcoming Discussion: Battered Women and Clemency

PardonPower is pleased to announce that Prof. Carol Jacobsen of the Michigan Battered Women's Clemency Project has agreed to field some questions for one of our INSIGHTS features. Please visit her web page, and the page for the Project, and look for her insights on this topic soon.

Friday, May 16, 2008

South Dakota: Denial

The South Dakota parole board has denied Debra Jenner parole for the 8th time. It is reported that at least one board member thinks the "grisly nature" of her crime is her biggest obstacle. Governor Bill Janklow commuted Jenner's life sentence without parole to 100-years after she admitted killing her 3-year-old daughter (see other details here). Jenner told members of the parole board she could land a job doing data entry in Pierre if she were to be released early. See story here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Watch List: The President on Pollard

Here is an excerpt from a recent interview President Bush has with Jacob Eilon and Gil Tamari, Channel 10 TV, Israel Map Room:

QUESTION: Mr. President, did you get any official request to pardon Jonathan Pollard, and if yes, would you consider it? And you know, many people in Israel think that the arrest of Ben-Ami Kadish in another spy case tended to influence you.
THE PRESIDENT: We are constantly analyzing cases. There's been no change in the government's attitude at this point.
QUESTION: But your -- did you get such a request?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes, constantly.
QUESTION: Constantly?
QUESTION: So for our 60th birthday, any new --
THE PRESIDENT: We'll analyze every request, but there's been no change of attitude.

Pardoned McDougal No Longer Bitter

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette recently published an article which said Susan McDougal is no longer "bitter" toward Kenneth Starr, the man who headed the Whitewater real estate investigation that landed her in prison. She also says that her fellow inmates took her story "as their own and saw it as something bright and noble and good." As she puts it, she spent times in seven jails in five states for "doing what was right."

McDougal was convicted of four counts of felony fraud and conspiracy in 1996. That year, Judge Susan Wright sent her to jail on civil contempt of court charges after she refused to answer questions before a grand jury and McDougal stayed there until March 1998. She served three months of her two-year sentence before being released in June 1998. McDougal was then charged with criminal contempt of court and obstruction of justice. The trial ended with a hung jury on the first charge and an acquittal on the second. Bill Clinton pardoned her in 2001.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

MIchigan: Good Odds, Considering ...

According to this article at the Chicago Tribune, fugitive-mom-recently-turned prisoner Susan LeFevre does not have the best chance of getting a commutation of sentence from Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), but the timing could have been worse. The article notes:
In her first term, Granholm commuted nine sentences of sick or aging inmates thought to be close to death. Yet since winning re-election and creating a clemency council early last year to help review cases, Granholm has ended 14 prison terms early -- including four this year for non-medical reasons, according to data reviewed by The Associated Press. All four offenders freed for non-health reasons had committed drug crimes resembling what landed LeFevre, now 53, in prison in 1975.
But the piece also notes Michigan's Parole Board has reviewed "thousands" of clemency requests during Granholm's tenure and recommended commutastions in only 31 instances. Granholm agreed 23 times and continues to review other cases, but she is now said to be receiving hundreds of e-mails on LeFevre's behalf. Lo, and behold, last week:
Granholm commuted the sentences of Ronald Seeger, 49, and Sally Smith, 60. Seeger has served nearly 16 years of a minimum 20-year term for delivering drugs in Oakland County. Smith has served more than 18 years of a life sentence for conspiring to deal narcotics in Oakland County. Their pending freedom comes on the heels of two drug-related commutations in February, the first time Granholm approved releasing people who weren't sick.
Michigan's previous governor, John Engler (R) only granted clemency in four cases by this point in his tenure, but granted a majority of his commutations (34) in his last year in office. Previous to Engler, Governor Jim Blanchard (D) commuted just once sentence by this point and added only five more before the end of his term.

Watch List: Pollard on the Plate?

Today's Wall Street Journal notes Roi Lachmanovitch, a spokesman for Israel's right-wing Shas party says, "We are planning on putting the Pollard issue on the agenda when Bush arrives." The goal? A pardon for Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. intelligence analyst. President Bush and earlier presidents have refused to grant a pardon and National Security Council spokeswoman Kate Starr says the U.S. position on Pollard hasn't changed. The article notes:

Mr. Pollard's most-vociferous backers have been anything but discreet. When President Bush came to Israel in January, the first visit here of his White House tenure, they plastered the sides of Jerusalem buses with ads comparing the U.S. president with the leaders of the Islamist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. Each is holding captured Israeli soldiers.
The Journal also says Pollard "claimed he was acting as a loyal Jew worried about Israel's survival, but he also received some $50,000 from the Israeli government, along with a promise that more cash would follow. " See Wall Street Journal article here.

Montana: No. No Deal

Gov. Brian Schweitzer is now denying previous reports (here) suggesting that there was something like a commutation deal offered to Canada in 1997 on behalf of convicted double murderer Ronald Smith. Schweitzer says, "Nothing was put on the table, nor did I offer anything." He also explains that he has "listened to a lot of folks" and "explained to them" that he cannot act "unilaterally" in the matter. For sure, in Montana, requests for commutation of sentence are filed after an execution date has been set and they have to be filed with the state Board of Pardons and Parole. After public hearings, recommendations are made to the governor. See more details on the story here.

Florida: Are You Pardoned?

The ACLU of Florida and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition have launched a website featuring a search engine that will "enable people with past felony convictions in Florida to search state records and find out if their civil rights, including their voting rights, have been restored." The tool is available here and here. The Director of Florida’s Racial Justice and Voting Rights Projects says "It is imperative that the State makes the process of rights restoration automatic and paperwork free. But, until that time, there needs to be an easy way for Floridians with past felony convictions to determine their status.” Users of the search engine can fish through State clemency records and can contact the Office of Executive Clemency to request certificates of civil right restoration. The site also informs visitors of the names of persons whose civil rights have been restored and provides instruction on how to register to vote. The State has been lobbied to create such a website in the past, but without success. See more details here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Watch List: Pollard Rally

According to this report, thousands of people rallied on Monday in Jerusalem to show their support for the pardon/commutation of sentence of Jonathan Pollard (see our Pardon Watch List). It is said that there was "hope" that President Bush will actually "bring Pollard with him when he arrives in Israel on Wednesday." The report describes Pollard in this manner:
Jonathan Pollard is well into his 23rd year of a life sentence with no possibility of parole for passing classified information to a United States ally - Israel. He is the only person in the history of the United States to receive a life sentence for spying for an American ally. The median sentence for this offense is 2-4 years. The data in question included information about Iraq's offensive weapons capabilities.

Campaign 08: Questions for Candidate Barr

I visited Bob Barr's smartly designed web page (here) and located a press link here. It actually contained a contact address for "Internet media" ( So, I extended an invitation to Candidate Barr to share his thoughts and opinions regarding the following questions:

1. You were one of the more outspoken and colorful critics of Bill Clinton's use (or abuse) of the pardon power. Do you think any significant lessons (political or otherwise) were learned from that whole experience?

2. It seems unlikely that the president's pardon power will ever be restricted in any serious manner, but do you think it should be? If you could have a constitutional amendment passed that would restrict the power, what restriction(s) would you implement?

3. What was your opinion of President Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence and do you have any opinions as to Libby's possible pardon?

4. There has been a steady, gradual decline in the use of the pardon power, at the federal level, since the early 1900s and more especially since the 1960s. Do you have any opinion about whether or not that is a good or bad thing?

5. There is a lot of talk these days about the need for sentencing reform, especially in relation to guidelines and drug related offenses. Do you have any particular views on these matters?

6. Are you currently supporting clemency for anyone (state or federal) and/or are there any persons that you think might deserve mercy from the President?

Per the general policy of PardonPower regarding INSIGHTS posts, Mr. Barr's responses will not be edited in any unapproved way and only readers will be allowed to post responses. And, of course, PardonPower would be very grateful to have Barr share his views on these matters. So, let's keep our fingers crossed!

Campaign 08: Bob Barr in the Race

Yes, Bob Barr, Libertarian, says he is in the race! It appears that Mr. Barr has not left the longest trail of statements regarding the pardon power, and most of what seems to be out there is related to the fairly narrow topic of Bill Clinton and Marc Rich. Barr delivered a classic line on NewsHour, for example, in regard to the Clinton-feigned-ignorance routine and the Marc Rich pardon. Barr quipped:

It's like Keystone Cops. But I don't think it is. I think the President knew exactly what he was doing. You didn't request information so you could probably say, "I don't know." In other words, have you ever heard of the concept of deliberate ignorance? Well, maybe not. Most prosecutors have.
Barr also suggested the congressional report on the Marc Rich pardon should be entitled, "Justice Undone. Corruption Well Done." In the aftermath of the last-minute Clinton pardons (or as Mr. Barr put it, "the pardon orgy), he sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney General which read, in part:

Contrary to long-established and consistent precedent, former President Clinton did not issue separate clemency grants for each individual. Instead he signed a single document entitled, 'Executive Grant of Clemency,' listing 138 persons by name, under the following statement: AFTER CONSIDERING THE REQUESTS for executive clemency of the following named persons, I hereby grant full and unconditional pardons to the following named persons for those offenses against the United States described in each such request: As a result, and as further explained in my February 9, 2001 letter, these 44 persons "could not" - and did not - receive pardons" ... This is patently - and constitutionally - improper.
"Master" warrants of this type have actually been used, on a consistent basis, since the Eisenhower administration. So, it is safe to assume the complaint didn't go very far. Still hanging on, in 2005, Barr wrote an editorial which criticized the Bush administration because:

... it chose not to inquire into the stench surrounding several of outgoing President Clinton's last-minute pardons, despite evidence that at least one --- fugitive fraud financier Marc Rich --- may have been procured at least in part by sizable donations through Rich's ex-wife, Denise, to the Clinton "presidential library" fund.
On CNN's Crossfire, Barr called Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon "outrageous" but, at the same time, criticized Clinton's pardons because Clinton "did not follow normal procedures." After having "studied" the question, Barr had decided that "no president" before Clinton "did what he did to the magnitude and number of midnight pardons that he issued" nor had "any other president skirted the Department of Justice and his own prosecutors" the way Clinton did.

PardonPower would just love to know what documents/sources were studied to reach this conclusion, but we offer to readers the only solid piece of empirical research on the topic that we are aware of here. One wonders if Barr would have used the "pardon orgy" line had he been around in the administrations of say Adams, Buchanan, Eisenhower, or Washington (keep in mind the month represented on the far right of each chart is not a complete month). And what is his view of what went on in the administrations of G.H.W. Bush , Carter , Nixon(2)/Ford and Reagan? Nonetheless, Barr made this interesting point along the way:

There is something you can do about it. If you have a president who issues pardons on a regular basis during his administration, the people do have some recourse. You can throw them out of office, for one thing, but when you do it at the last minute by subverting justice, there's nothing the people can do.

Perhaps we can learn more about Mr. Barr's opinions regarding the pardon power generally - if he has any - in the days and weeks to come. PardonPower may even send an e-mail his way and see what happens. Look for an update.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Arkansas: 9 Pardons

Governor Mike Beebe has announced that he will grant nine pardons. One will go to a woman who was convicted in 1992 of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver. The grant is opposed by the Pulaski County sheriff. The other pardons cover such offenses as forgery, theft of property, breaking and entering, receiving and possession of an instrument of a crime and delivery of marijuana. It is also reported that an additional 21 clemency requests were denied and 40 received no action. See story here.

Mississippi: Another Request

The Mississippi Supreme Court has set May 21 as the execution date for Earl Wesley Berry, who was convicted of kidnapping Mary Bounds from the parking lot of a church in 1987, beating her to death and dumping her body in the woods. Berry's October 2007 execution was halted by the United States Supreme Court just 19 minutes in advance. Attorneys say he is mentally retarded and request more time to appeal and ask Gov. Haley Barbour (R) for clemency. Berry's attorneys would also like a review of the State's lethal-injection procedures. Gov. Barbour, however, has apparently suggested that he will not change his mind regarding the case, having rejected a similar request on Berry's behalf last fall. See article here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Context: Mother's Day and the Pardon Power

He was active in party politics and his buddy is sometimes given credit for getting Mother's Day officially recognized in the United States. But he fell into some legal trouble, was convicted, and found himself looking at a $12,000 fine and a prison sentence of 5 months. Things didn't look very cheery in the appellate process either. But, you see, this fellow was "close" to high-ranking White House officials and "well connected." Hundreds of appeals for mercy, from prominent persons, were produced on his behalf.

So, the President of the United States reduced the fine and granted a pardon before the convicted felon spent a single minute in the federal penitentiary - you know, the kind of thing CNN's legal "experts" never heard of until Scooter Libby came along! Oh, and one of his co-defendants was also fined $4,000 and sentenced to four months in a federal house of detention, but pardoned in advance of the service.

As if all of that was not enough, the President's abrupt and unexpectd pardons brought a major government investigation to a grinding halt. Wow! Who could ever forget this stuff? Everyone!

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Arkansas: Pardon

Gov. Mike Beebe has announced his intent to grant a pardon to Harold White, who was convicted in 1987 of delivery of marijuana. However, prosecutor Robin Carroll is objecting to the pardon application. See story here.

Campaign 08: Deja Vu All Over Again

Pondering the current status of the Democratic race for the presidency, Bob Herbert, in today's New York Times, notes (among other things):

The last time the Clintons had to make a big exit was at the end of Bill Clinton’s second term as president — and they made a complete and utter hash of that historic moment. Having survived the Monica Lewinsky ordeal, you might have thought the Clintons would be on their best behavior.

Instead, a huge scandal erupted when it became known that Mrs. Clinton’s brothers, Tony and Hugh Rodham, had lobbied the president on behalf of criminals who then received presidential pardons or a sentence commutation from Mr. Clinton.

Tony Rodham helped get a pardon for a Tennessee couple that had hired him as a consultant and paid or loaned him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Over the protests of the Justice Department, President Clinton pardoned the couple, Edgar Allen Gregory Jr. and his wife, Vonna Jo, who had been convicted of bank fraud in Alabama.

Hugh Rodham was paid $400,000 to lobby for a pardon of Almon Glenn Braswell, who had been convicted of mail fraud and perjury, and for the release from prison of Carlos Vignali, a drug trafficker who was convicted and imprisoned for conspiring to sell 800 pounds of cocaine. Sure enough, in his last hours in office (when he issued a blizzard of pardons, many of them controversial), President Clinton agreed to the pardon for Braswell and the sentence commutation for Vignali.

Hugh Rodham reportedly returned the money after the scandal became public and was an enormous political liability for the Clintons.

Both Clintons professed to be ignorant of anything improper or untoward regarding the pardons. Once, when asked specifically if she had talked with a deputy White House counsel about pardons, Mrs. Clinton said: “People would hand me envelopes. I would just pass them on. You know, I would not have any reason to look into them.”

See full editorial here.

South Dakota: Commutation Revisited

Debra Jenner has been denied parole seven times, but, will seek her freedom once again next week. In 1987, she stabbed her three-year-old daughter, Abby, 70 times with a Chicago Cutlery knife because the child was "fussy" (read more about the details of the murder here). In 2003, Jenner admitted her guilt in taped interviews and former Governor Bill Janklow (R) commuted her sentence to 100 years in prison. Chief Deputy Attorney General Mark Barnett opposes her release, however, because he says Jenner privately tells fellow inmates that she is innocent. As such, the 50-year old's sentence will end in 2039, with good behavior. Jenner's original sentence was life without the possibility of parole.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Montana: Canada and the Death Penalty

Ronald Allen Smith, a native of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, was sentenced to death in March 1983 after he was found guilty of shooting two men in the back of the head just after they had offered him a ride while hitchhiking. Smith later said that he did it "to find out what it would be like to kill somebody." He also accepted his death sentence as an appropriate fate, but then changed his mind and engaged in a spirited round of appeals.

For years, Canada has lobbied foreign governments to show mercy to its citizens when they face the death penalty, requesting commutations of sentence (to life in prison) or that prisoners be returned to Canada to serve their term there. Canada got rid of the death penalty for its own citizens in 1976. Smith is the only Canadian on death row in the United States but, in November of 2007, the government of Canada announced a change in policy. It would not seek clemency for Smith. Today, however, a report at notes:
Montana's governor told a top Canadian consular official last year that he was willing to consider commuting the death sentence of Alberta-born killer Ronald Smith - the only Canadian on death row in the U.S. - and transfer him to a Canadian prison if Canada would guarantee he'd be kept behind bars for at least five years. The revelation is contained in briefing notes prepared in November for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and released on Friday after an Access to Information request by Canwest News Service.
As of now, no execution date has been set for Smith. See report here.

Tennessee: New Path to Clemency Reform?

This report discusses consideration of legislation that would end state health benefits for General Assembly lawmakers convicted of a felony. The bill - the byproduct of arrests and convictions of lawmakers involved in the “Tennessee Waltz” federal bribery sting - has alread passed in the State Senate unanimously. According to the report:

Under the bill, neither the surviving spouse nor the dependent children of a convicted lawmaker would be eligible to continue health care coverage. The bill was amended to include any governor convicted of a felony. The benefits would be stopped on the date of conviction or plea, and the person would not be eligible for any refund of premiums, co-payments or other costs previously paid. In the event that a conviction was later overturned and the person was acquitted, or was granted a full pardon, then the person would be restored all rights in regard to continuation of health care coverage, according to the bill.
The State Fiscal Review Office calculated that if a single lawmaker was convicted of a felony during 2008-09, the state would save more than $700,000 over a 25-year period. PardonPower wonders if there might not be greater concern about atrophy in clemency powers if state legislators are required to take a greater interest in the topic via this kind of legislation!

Michigan: Editorial on Fugitive

The Detroit News has an editorial which provides the following commentary on Susan LeFevre, the fugitive from justice recently turned captive:
Under the Michigan constitution, Gov. Jennifer Granholm has the power to pardon LeFevre or commute the sentence. The process typically takes a month or two and begins with an application that goes to the 10-member state parole board. The panel reviews the case and recommends whether to commute the sentence or not. Governors and parole boards are generally wary of pardons and commuted sentences. There's a political and safety risk if the released prisoner commits a violent crime. There's no such risk here. LeFevre is expected to soon ask for the sentence to be commuted. Both the parole board and governor should approve the request. Writing mercy into the Constitution goes with the expectation it will be used at the appropriate time. This is one of those times.
See full editorial here.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Arkansas: A Huckabee Pardon

Here is a great article about one Jimmy Hinton, who dealt cocaine for five years and could be seen carrying around hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, that is until a routine traffic stop in 1995. Hinton then spent five years in prison. And, when he left, former Governor Mike Huckabee (R)granted him a pardon. Now Hinton shares his story in elementary schools and in juvenile detention facilities. As he tells his listenters, "My calling now is, after all I've gone through, is to reach back and get you, so I want to stop you before you get to where I had to go."

Arizona: Rejection

On May 1, PardonPower reported on the clemency request of 78-year-old Max Dunlap, who was convicted of the 1976 car-bomb murder of Don Bolles, an Arizona Republic reporter. The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency has since denied Dunlap's commutation request despite the fact that he claims to be innocent. Dunlap is not eligible for parole until 2014. His family members said he should be released from prison because of his poor health, but Bolles' daughter said he should remain in prison.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Death Penalty Statistics

Georgia's execution of William Earl Lynd is the first of the year. Lynd was convicted of murdering his girlfriend in 1988. Here are some charts on Death Row and executions in the United States:

Death Row Population, 1953-2007
Executions, 1789-2008
Executions, 1953-2008
Death Row Population v. Executions, 1953-2007

Watch List: About the Watch List

Over the last couple of weeks, I have talked to reporters from the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune who have expressed interest in PardonPower's Pardon Watch List. The legitimate questions were: What determines whether or not an individual gets on the list? and do I expect everyone on the list to be pardoned?

I have generally utilized the following criterion for adding individuals to the List: If an individual has been involved in a high-profile case or enjoys celebrity status, then I have put them on the list. I have especially done so if someone (a columnist, politician, or significant legal actor) has publicly called for clemency on their behalf, or has gone so far as to predict clemency. On the other hand, if public figures have called on the President to pardon relatively unknown persons in notable ways (speeches, editorials or publications), then I have also added names to the List. Likewise, if I have become aware of any organized effort to obtain clemency on someone else's behalf (petition drive, online petition, etc.)

Do I expect everyone on the List to be pardoned? I certainly do not. And that is all the more reason to keep it, and to attend to it regularly. We all know the boiler-plate criticisms of the criminal justice system: those that have the gold rule ... if you don't have the capital, then you get the punishment ... etc. While such rhetoric is not without grounding, it would be intellectually irresponsible to fail to recognize that prominent, well-connected, rich, celebrated persons do not always get what they want (apologies to Mr. Jagger and Co.). Justice Department officials are fond of addressing pardon "controversies" by noting that the typical pardon is granted to an unknown, an average person - if you will, in a non-controversial way. Although I am not aware of anyone having ever disputed that point, the Pardon Watch List, in effect, makes it more persuasively, and in advance of the oncoming storm.

And there's no need to worry or doubt. It will come.

blogger templates | Make Money Online