Monday, July 27, 2009

PardonPower on History Detectives!

Tonight, the Editor of the PardonPower blog sits down with Tukufu Zuberi of the PBS program History Detectives (Season 7, Episode 6) to discuss Millard Fillmore's extension of federal executive clemency to an American Indian named See-See-Sah-Mah.

Although he stepped into the presidency following the unexpected death of Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore waited but a single day before granting his first pardon. In the next two and a half years, he granted 177 pardons, respites and commutations of sentence (a total similar to the previous 8-9 administrations). Interestingly, almost 40 percent of these grants were given to applicants from his own home state (New York)! The forthcoming book, Pardon Me. Mr. President: Adventures in Crime, Politics and Mercy suggests grants of mercy to anti-slavery activists Daniel Drayton and Edward Sayers were perhaps the most notable in the bunch.

Very few of Fillmore's clemency warrants address the crime of murder. But the case of William Wells had constitutional implications and, as History Detectives will demonstrate tonight, the case of See-See-Sah-Mah is also quite notable. Fillmore granted two respites, delaying Sah-Mah's execution (3/13/1851 and 4/11/1851). Multiple respites are a rarity and, in most instances, indicate some special set of complications (doubts about guilt, new evidence, judicial misconduct, etc.) or "political" considerations (direct lobbying of the president, appeals to jurors, prosecutors, trial judges or members of the Supreme Court, etc.). Finally, on May 10, 1851, Fillmore commuted the death sentence to life in prison. Last summer, History Detectives had PardonPower confirm that there are no records of additional extensions of clemency to See-See-Sah-Mah by later presidents.

Tonight's episode will introduce us to the owner of the actual warrant granting See-See-Sah-Mah a commutation of sentence, will explore the circumstances surrounding the trial and conviction and will answer the equally interesting question "What ever happened to See-See-Sah-Mah?"

1 comment:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Off topic, but Colorado Public Radio had an interesting in depth story on the state's two year old Juvenile Clemency Board, which has been viewed by detractors as too stingy and narrow in its view of its mandate.

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