Today, former U.S. Pardon Attorney Margaret Colgate Love writes in the National Law Journal, "The American public is tired of hearing about Willie Horton." The observation is, of course, prompted by the media recent "reporting" of the Maurice Clemmons' case in Arkansas (see our discussion of the Top Ten Clemency Stories of 2009). Love rightly notes:
Although attacks on chief executives related to particular pardons are nothing new in our history, never before has mere anticipation of attack succeeded in shutting down the pardon power altogether. With a few notable exceptions, recently governors and presidents alike have let their constitutional power atrophy, fearful of being labeled soft on crime or of being held personally responsible for a heinous act that might even tenuously be linked to them. Pardons and commutations have become essentially unavailable in many states and in the federal system ...
Of course, the problem is exacerbated where parole has been abolished and records are not easily expunged. In sharp contrast to the politics of the day: almost all of American history! Love notes the pardon power has "played an integral operational part in the justice system" and "there is no time in memory when it has been more necessary to a just system."
Love notes polls and blog posts suggest "many" are convinced Huckabee acted reasonably in the Clemmons case and is encouraged by the "renewed sense of purpose" apparent in Ohio and Illinois. Programs of responsible pardoning are well worth emulation. See complete editorial here.