Sunday, May 16, 2010

Vermont: 31 Years of Hesitancy

Sam Hemingway of the Burlington Free Press has written a fine article on clemency in the State of Vermont. Hemingway notes the current governor, Jim Douglas, is about to leave office "having granted fewer pardons per year than any of his eight immediate predecessors." The count for recent governors appears to be:

Douglas: 13 pardon in 7 1/2 years
Kunin: 12 pardons in 6 years
Dean: 80 pardons in 11 1/2 years
Snelling: 32 pardons in 8 years
Salmon: 198 pardons in 4 years

According to the story, Douglas takes the pardon power "very seriously" and reads every part of every application that is filed. So, he "employs an abundance of caution when he ponders whether to grant someone a pardon." He also insists, as a personal matter, that any conviction must be at least 10 years old! As it happens, to date, Douglas has also only granted pardons to those who have committed misdemeanors. Douglas insists that applicants display "outstanding contribution to family and community" since their conviction and/or that a pardon would "remove an obstacle to employment" or "benefit society."

Amazingly enough, the article suggest Douglas, in 2010, "may be particularly cautious about pardons" because of an episode that took place more than three decades ago! Hemingway notes Governor Snelling received criticism when one of his 32 pardon recipients went on to commit a sexual assault and an armed robbery! One wonders how many people even remember the person's name! See story here.

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