Friday, December 19, 2008

NPR's "On the Media" Looks at Pardons

National Public Radio's "On the Media" will feature a segment on presidential pardons this week. The interview is conducted by Brooke Gladstone. Topics covered include: formal and informal processes for pardon applications, notorious pardons, explanations for pardons, the public imagination and acts of mercy, the Supreme Court and the pardon power, secrecy and the clemency process, unforgettable - but long forgotten - pardons, and the necessity of the pardon power. See the "On the Media" page and hear the complete segment here.

NOTE: Due to some editing in the interview, a complication of some concern arises. At the 4:55 mark, as a result of editing, I seem to suggest that the president should not have the pardon power. Of course, later in the interview, I very clearly argue the pardon power is an absolute necessity. Here is what happened around the 4:55 segment: What I was suggesting was that the president should not have a pardon power greater than that of the King of England. In the original interview, this portion of the segment went like this (italics represent the words omitted in the final cut):

"... is that the power should be interpreted in terms of the Constitution, and the Republic where we have separation of powers and checks and balances. Let me give you a quick example. Our president should not be able to pardon someone on the condition that they never again practice Catholicism. That would be a clear violation of the First Amendment. Now the King of England may have been able to grant such a pardon, but the President of the United States is constrained by Bill of Rights. And so our president should not have that power."

UPDATE: I am reminded that the Portuguese sailor who was found sucking blood out of lifeless bodies was the recipient of federal executive clemency in January of 1867, and was thus assisted by President Johnson, not President Grant. See my blog post on the case from June of last year here. The "male correspondent" in the set-up also credits Andrew Jackson with pardoning Confederate soldiers. I guess it just wasn't Andrew Johnson's day!

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