Thursday, February 11, 2010

ACLU Pushes for First Obama Pardon

Hamedah Hasan was convicted in 1993 for a first time, non-violent crack cocaine conspiracy offense. At the time, the United States Sentencing Guidelines at that time prescribed a sentence of life in prison, but changes resulted in a reduction of her sentence to 27 years. She is now entering the 17th year of her sentence as a mother and grandmother, with an exemplary record. So, a clemency petition has been filed with the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of the Pardon Attorney. It is reported that the application is accompanied by "almost 50 letters of support from prison chaplains, community members, advocates, friends and family." Among those letters is one by federal judge, the Honorable Richard G. Kopf, U.S. District of Nebraska, who sentenced Hasan in 1993. Says Kopf: "

I can say, without equivocation, that Ms. Hasan is deserving of the President's mercy. I have never supported such a request in the past, and I doubt that I will support another one in the future. That said, in this unique case, justice truly cries out for relief.
The American Civil Liberties Union is also representing Hasan. It notes:
President Obama, Vice President Biden and Attorney General Holder have publicly called for equalization of federal sentences for crack and powder cocaine, and the U.S. Sentencing Commission has called for reform of the crack-powder sentencing disparity four times. President Obama's "Blueprint for Change," published soon after he was elected in 2008, stated, "...the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated. By granting Hamedah Hasan's petition, President Obama can signal to Congress and to the nation that he's serious about restoring fairness to our criminal justice system ...
Hasan's petition is the first of several in a larger project, dubbed "Dear Mr. President, Yes You Can." The Dear Mr. President Project brings together civil rights advocates, legal scholars, law school clinics, pro bono counsel and others to urge President Obama to depart from the practices of his immediate predecessors and use the pardon and commutation power in a principled way, consistent with his administration's position that the crack Sentencing Guidelines have been far too harsh. The Project also aims to promote the president's clemency power as a means to correct historical injustices.

Hasan's commutation petition materials are available at: www.dearmrpresidentyesyoucan.org

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