Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The President: Free Eduardo Arocena!

The Miami Herald reports there is a call for a presidential pardon to be granted to 65-year old Cuban exile Eduardo Arocena who has been in prison since the early 1980's. Arocena was sentenced to life in prison plus 35 years for murdering a diplomat and planting bombs. At the time of his arrest, he was described by federal authorities as "America's most dangerous anti-Castro terrorist." Now that Arocena is struggling with high blood pressure and diabetes, his wife and supporters are said to be seeking clemency, as a "humanitarian matter." Erik Ablin, a Justice Department spokesman provided excellent insight into the relationship between Department of Justice "guidelines" and the actual power of the president by explaining:
... Under these rules, a person who has been sentenced to life generally does not qualify for a presidential pardon because he must wait five years after completion of the sentence to apply for a pardon. Inmates sentenced to life can instead seek a commutation or reduction of sentence.
Arocena's supporters are also gathering signatures for a petition in an effort to "garner publicity and make President Bush aware of exile community interest in the case." See story here.


Anonymous said...

Hello Professor Ruckman.

Living in Miami, I've been following the Arocena pardon case. To be specific, a petition of commutation has been sent to the Pardon Attorney on behalf of Eduardo Arocena.

But, I would like to ask if you know of any other case of a Presidential Pardon where the outgoing President has commuted the sentence of a man charged with first-degree murder, and several other federal and state charges, like that of Arocena?

Thanks for your time.

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. said...

EDITOR:I was not familiar with this case before the recent reports, although it does seem quite interesting. The short - and very standard - answer to your "any other case ... like that of Arocena" is "No." No two cases are ever exactly alike. Even if offenses are identical, motives, means and circumstances can vary wildly. For that reason, the search for "exact" matches rarely pays off.

On the other hand, outgoing presidents have certainly commuted the sentences of persons charged with murder. Andrew Johnson even granted pardons to individuals who were convicted in the plot to murder Abraham Lincoln. A more recent and prominent case is that of Maurice Schick, who sexually assaulted a very young girl, then stood on her neck as she drowned in the water of a drainage ditch. Eisenhower commuted the death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. As Gerald Ford was leaving office, he commuted the sentence again to allow for the possibility of parole. Schick's case was considerd by the U.S. Supreme Court. Woodrow Wilson pardoned a man who was convicted twice of a triple axe murder as he was leaving office. I believe President Bush's recent approval of a death sentence for member of the military has also uncovered some other examples of death sentences being commuted.

As for terrorist acts, clemency has been extended to the individuals who shot up the House of Representatives, an individual who tried to shoot Harry Truman, the FALN terrorists, members of the Weather Underground, etc.

So, yes, there are elements here that are familiar, in the big view of things.


Anonymous said...

Professor Ruckman,

In addition to the unlikely chance of a pardon you highlight above, a pardon or clemency typically requires a candidate to have shown remorse. Nothing in Arocena's history or in the public record demonstrates contrition on the part of Arocena.

I am very familiar with the Arocena case. In law enforcement circles, Arocena and Omega 7's many acts of terrorism are well known. Long before September 11th, Arocena and Omega 7 brought terror to the metropolitan New York and Miami areas during the 70's and 80's. In addition to the many politically motivated crimes, such as the murder of a diplomat and numerous bombings, the extremist Arocena essentially declared war on the United States by bombing FBI and other government buildings endangering the lives of innocents in the United States. A summary of Arocena's crimes, as described by a federal judge, can be found at: http://vlex.com/vid/37086305

A quick review evidences a terror spree hard to imagine in today's world. It would be an outrage to the Department of Justice, the FBI and the several United States District Judges who have sentenced Arocena to even entertain such a pardon or clemency.

While we remain forever diligent to ensure other acts of terror do not occur again, we cannot send the inconsistent message that Arocena's acts are acceptable in a free society that is governed by the rule of law.

Thanks for addressing this matter.

Anonymous said...

It would be a travesty to those who suffered at the hands of Arocena if he were pardoned. Just because this despicable SOB has diabetes and high blood pressure doesn't mean he should be pardoned. Life plus 35 means just that and there is no questions that he deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

GHW Bush pardoned Orlando Bosch Avila, well known and documented terrorist that more than 20 countries refused to admit, so I will not be surprised if Dubya pardons this guy. The law might state that he is not eligible for pardon, but since when did the law make any difference to the Bushies?

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