Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bush Denies Pardons and Commutations

Former U.S. Pardon Attorney Margaret C. Love has provided the following update on federal executive clemency:

On August 28, President Bush denied 106 requests for pardon after service of sentence, and 607 requests for commutation of sentence. He issued no grants. In the seven-plus years of his presidency he has denied a total of 1535 pardon requests and granted 157; he has denied 6290 commutation requests and granted 6 (counting Scooter Libby). The last time he granted any pardons was March 25, 2008.

Meanwhile, the applications continue to pour in to the Justice Department, in evident anticipation of some late-term pardons. The Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) has not yet released its statistics on incoming applications for the month of August, but if past is prologue OPA is on pace to top 2000 clemency applications this year -- which would make 2008 by far the most prolific year for clemency applications since OPA began keeping statistics in the McKinley administration. The next three top years for clemency applications were all in the Coolidge Administration, and in none of those years were there more than 1600 applications filed. On the other hand, in one of those years (1924) the President issued 105 pardons and 120 commutations, in another (1925) there were 182 pardons and 96 commutations, and in the third (1929) there were 160 pardons and 179 commutations. This year to date President Bush has issued 44 pardons and 2 commutations, despite the fact that the federal prison population has increased by a factor of 10 since 1929.

There has been some recent speculation in the press about possible late term pardons (see July 19 NY Times, and August 9 Chicago Tribune), but to date there is no sign that President Bush intends to change course from the very conservative policy he has followed from the beginning of his tenure.

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