Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pennsylvania: Pardon Tale

Well, there are clemency stories and then there are clemency stories. As far as clemency stories go, this one is ... right up there!

Mitchell DiVentura strangled his former wife with the cord of a hair dryer in 1976. A first-degree murder conviction followed, but was overturned because of concerns over ineffective counsel. DiVentura was convicted a second time, however, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In 1987, he agreed to drop his appeal if his prosecutor and judge supported a bid for a commutation of sentence (to life with the possibility of parole). The prosecutor and judge agreed, sent letters to the state board of pardons and the board actually recommended clemency to then-Gov. Robert P. Casey. DiVentura must have felt like the Donald Trump of the criminal justice system. But Casey denied the application.

Where is this going?

Since the agreement between DiVentura and the prosecutor and judge, a new prosecutor has been elected. And the new prosecutor is not so keen on supporting the clemency application. In addition, the new prosecutor is seeking to block further appeals by DiVentura and recommending that DiVentura continue to use his old letters of support if he so desires!

Thanks to the great reporting of Sarah Cassi, we have more complete details on the case here.

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