Sunday, December 28, 2008

Comment: Delivery and Execution of Pardons

EDITOR: Former U.S. Pardon Margaret Colgate Love sent us this clarification of the issue of execution and delivery of pardons:

"The pardon warrrant for Felt and Miller signed by the President on March 26, 1981 was not announced to the general public until April 15. (The delay was partly because Reagan was shot on March 30.) While I can't be certain, I doubt that Felt and Miller themselves were told of the pardons earlier, since even Attorney General William French Smith was unaware of them until the President's public annnouncement on April 15. (My predecessor as Pardon Attorney David Stephenson had prepared the warrant at then-White House Counsel Fred Fielding's request, and he got into a lot of hot water with the AG who learned about the grants from the press.) It is my understanding that no document evidencing the pardons was delivered to either Felt or Miller.

In the more recent case of the six Iran Contra defendants pardoned by President George H.W. Bush on December 22, 1992, no warrants were executed by the President. Instead, like President Ford with the Nixon pardon, he announced the pardons by Proclamation published in the Federal Register. No documents evidencing the pardons were ever delivered to the six. (I was Pardon Attorney at the time, so I can say this with authority.)

The fact is that history is replete with examples of pardons being granted by the President with no subsequent involvement by the Pardon Attoney, and no formal notice given the recipients. For example, I recall hearing that a number of those pardoned on the final day of President Clinton's term were never notified by the Pardon Attorney of the President's action, because they had never applied and OPA didn't have addresses for them."

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