Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Jack Johnson Pardon: Reporting? or Mere Advertising?

PardonPower has submitted an editorial to the Washington Post re the potential posthumous pardon of boxing legend Jack Johnson. In our view, the need for the editorial could not be over estimated. For two weeks now, the Nation's newspapers have been flooded with articles on the topic, articles which, due to a lack of research or anything like an ounce of investigative reporting, amount to little more than PR (if not outright advocacy) for the pardon.

Readers can see still yet another such article in today's Los Angeles Times (full text here). The piece reads like three dozen others you can find elsewhere ... "Johnson was black. He dated white women and was charged by an all-white jury for violating the Mann Act. He was a rebel and white people hated him for it. Now, we are past all of that and celebrities and politicians of all colors and parties want him pardoned." Occaisionally, a writer will cast doubt on John McCain's support of the pardon.

These fluff pieces rarely ever cite experts on clemency ... and with good reason. Such persons are likely to be focused on the thousands of applications that have built up in the Department of Justice over the years and the resulting suffering and injustices that are a daily feature in the lives of people who are LIVING! Similarly, reporters never mention that Obama has granted zero pardons and commutations and is among the very slowest presidents in history to do so.

It is also notable that these pieces never note that, when alive, Johnson never applied for a pardon himself. They never mention that he was a fugitive from justice for seven years. Nor do they comment on the quality of Johnson's post conviction life - something which is routinely considered a major factor in the decision making of the executive when granting a pardon. While such pieces are fond of noting the posthumous pardons of Henry Flipper (Clinton) and Charlie Winters (Bush), they never mention Jimmy Carter's proclamation regarding Samuel Mudd ... again, with good reason. The proclamation is clearly the appropriate tool for presidents wishing to clear the names of dead persons. Pardons are entirely inappropriate because there is no punishment whatseoever to relieve.

We have have a great relationship with the Post in the past and have our fingers crossed on this one. It would be nice to see serious dialogue on the Johnson pardon request. Even better, it would be nice to see the conversation shift to larger issues related to the administration of the pardon power.

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