Monday, June 21, 2010

Washington: Clemency Process On Hold

Jonathan Martin of the Seattle Times has written a somewhat sweeping (and occasionally rambling) article on the use of clemency in the states. It begins by noting Governor Chris Gregoire has granted an "extremely rare" pardon - to a man who was deported after being advised that a guilty plea would result in no punishment at all. Indeed, Martin notes Gregoire had granted clemency 26 times in 53 months, but shut down clemency activity since the media's shoddy treatment of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (in the Maurice Clemmons case). Meanwhile, the states Clemency and Pardons Board has unanimously recommended clemency in at least 14 cases!

The piece notes former Washington Gov. Mike Lowry (1993 to 1997) granted only 1 pardon and 9 commutations of sentence. Gov. Gary Locke (1997 to 2005), on the other hand, granted 66 pardons and commutations. Martin notes "more than half were granted after Locke decided he would not run for re-election in mid-2003." Sen. Adam Kline, a Seattle Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee says"
"If the safety valve is clemency, and clemency is dependent on the political situation, then what kind of system do we have? Do they depend on not having situations like [the Lakewood police deaths]? Justice has been shut off for a year. What the hell kind of system is that?"
Martin also notes Gregoire has already denied seven petitions that won "positive recommendation" from the five-member Clemency and Pardons Board. See story here.

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