Friday, December 18, 2009

Speaking of Bizarre Pardons!

Over at Slate, Radley Balko argues it is high time that the recent round of scrutiny directed toward Mike Huckabee (for the commutation of sentence granted to Maurice Clemmons) be shifted toward "one of Huckabee's possible competitors for the [2012 GOP presidential] nomination, Haley Barbour" (Governor of Mississippi). What follows is a wildly entertaining description of Barbour's "bizarre" pardon record.

In the last two years, Barbour has "pardoned, granted clemency to, or suspended the sentences" of at least five convicted murderers "four of whom killed their wives or girlfriends" and he has pardoned a man "convicted and sentenced to life for robbing and murdering an elderly man." The common denominator among them: participation in a program that allowed them to do odd jobs around the Governor's mansion. [Shotgun-totting deputy wearing permanent frown and dark sun glasses enter stage right]. At the same time, Balko reports, Barbour has been downright peculiar in his failure to use the pardon power to further exonerate individuals who have been declared innocent via DNA testing. [Sweaty prisoner in dirty "wife beater" carrying pot full of hard boiled eggs enter stage right]

What does it all mean? Balko argues governors too often "bestow redemption on guilty people who claim that they're rehabilitated" and this "converts the pardon from a check on an imperfect system to an almost religious capacity for conferring forgiveness, for reasons often more personal than related to public policy."And that is why "Barbour is handing out mercy to killers while paying no heed to the staggeringly flawed system operating right under his nose." Indeed, one might call it "a failure to communicate."

See entire article here

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