Sunday, August 29, 2010

Whitacre: Out and About. Still No Pardon

It appears that HBO will be revisiting the saga of Mark Whitacre, a whistleblower in the 1992 price fixing case involving the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Company. Whitacre has previously been featured on this blog's Pardon Watch List.- an exercise which was already difficult to justify and is now (in the face of almost 600 days of no pardons or commutations) almost impossibly silly.

Last week, the Editor's sister and brother-in-law (business persons in Pensacola, FL.) went to see Whitacre speak on bad decision making by business leaders. It  was an entertaining and informative presentation. His pardon application, which features compelling argumentation and impressive outside support (including support from members of the FBI) was also mentioned, albeit briefly. PardponPower wishes Mr. and Mrs. Whitacre the very best in their effort to have the events of the past framed more properly, via federal executive clemency. See HBO announcement here.

Incorrect Open Letter Sent Incorrectly to Obama

ArabNews.com is featuring an "open letter" to President Obama. Along the way, the letter mentions a "Saudi student" named Humeidan Al-Turki, who has, evidently, lost an appeal of his case to the Supreme Court. The letter notes that John F. Kennedy pardoned Hank Greenspan, "the leader of a smuggling network of arms to Israel." It notes that Gerald Ford pardoned President Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush pardoned Orlando Bosch, "one of the most aggressive terrorists who had masterminded the bombing of a civilian aircraft, one of his many terrorist acts." Finally, it notes that Bill Clinton pardoned Al Schwimmer "who was accused of organizing a network smuggling arms to Israel" and George W. Bush "issued a pardon" I. Lewis Libby "after being indicted on lying and perjury charges, the most ugly charges in the dictionary of American justice."

The letter then asks, rhetorically:
Mr. President, is the Saudi student’s (presumably accused of harassing his maid) action more serious than charges of those convicted of election fraud, bombing planes, lying, and possession and smuggling of arms and drugs?
PardonPower offers the following information as a public service: 1. At this point, Humeidan Al-Turki is not "presumably accused." He is, instead, convicted of aggravated sexually harassment of his Indonesian maid while keeping her in a condition of forced labor / servitude all for a wage of less than two dollars a day. He has also been sentenced to a prison term of 28 years. 2. Al-Turki was convicted in the State of Colorado, in Arapahoe County, in a state court, not a federal U.S. District Court. President Obama, however, cannot pardon persons convicted of state crimes. For information on clemency in the State of Colorado, follow this link3. George H.W. Bush did not pardon Orlando Bosch. For that matter 4. George W. Bush did not pardon Mr. Libby either. Bush merely commuted the prison sentence portion of Libby's punishment. See full "open letter" here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Governor From the Midwest is Convicted.

On August 31, 1923, Warren T. McCray, Republican Governor of Indiana, sat down in the Rainbow Room of the Hotel Severin (Indianapolis) with a group of one hundred and fifty bankers and lawyers. There was some good news and some bad news.

The good news was that the Governor had a little over three million dollars in personal assets and he was the proud owner of almost sixteen thousand acres of land. Most of the people in the room were probably not all that amazed because they were quite familiar with McCray’s amazing life story. At the age of fifteen, he began working at his father's bank and assumed ownership bank when his father died in 1913. McCray also owned several grain elevators and a livestock farm where he bred Hereford cattle and, on occasion, sold single bulls for as much as twenty five thousand dollars. Warren T. McCray became known as the “Hereford King.” But there was some bad news as well.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Clemency in the Canadian Context

Lesley Atkinson is the Communications Officer at Canadian Pardon Service, an organization that assists Canadians with criminal records in obtaining pardons, U.S. Entry Waivers, and File Destruction Requests. Her degree in Psychology from the University of Guelph piqued her interest in criminology, and from there she began working at Canadian Pardon Service. In addition to other duties, she is responsible for keeping the organization and clients up to date on any important legislative changes that may affect them. In this post, Atkinson will discuss a topic with which she has a good deal of experience and expertise; Canadian criminal records, pardons, and the Criminal Records Act. There are many differences in Canadian criminal records and pardons (when they are compared to the United States) so this piece will provide a general outline of the criminal record and pardon system in Canada, as well as some recent legislative developments.

Criminal Records in Canada

Over 3 million Canadian criminal records are held at the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), a database that is maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). A criminal record is held in the database until the individual reaches at least 80, and in some cases, 100 years of age. The CPIC database is available to all law enforcement agencies in Canada as well as the FBI, U.S. Customs, and Interpol. One difference between American and Canadian criminal records is that in Canada they are only available to law enforcement agencies and cannot be viewed by the public because of privacy laws, whereas they are public knowledge in the United States. However, by conducting a criminal record search it is possible for the public to verify the existence of a Canadian criminal record, although the specific details cannot be viewed. Because of increasing security and employer liability concerns, more criminal record searches are conducted every day. As a result, many Canadians with criminal records encounter difficulty getting a job, travelling, volunteering, adopting, and even applying for citizenship. However, it is possible for a criminal record to be ‘permanently removed and sealed’ from the CPIC database, by obtaining a pardon.

Should Carter Be Sent to Obama?

The Boston Herald reports that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has convinced North Korea's Kim Jong Il to do what the current U.S. President Barack Obama has never done: grant a pardon!

Thirty-one year old English teacher Aijalon Gomes was arrested seven months for "trespassing" and committing a "hostile act."  He was then sentenced to eight years of hard labor and fined 70 million won (or, more than $600,000). It is reported that Gomes had attempted suicide out of despair. The government of North Korea deems the release of the "illegal entrant" as evidence of that Nation's "humanitarianism and peace-loving policy." See complete story here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Nebraska: Commutation

The Omaha World Herald reports that the State's Board of Pardons has voted to commute the life-sentence of 54-year old Reginald Bennett, who was convicted of first degree murder in the late 70s. The commutation reduced Bennett's sentence to 64 to 90 years. As he has now served 32 years, he would be eligible for release on supervised parole later this year. Bennett has been described as a "model prisoner" who "accepted Christ" in prison and has a "low" risk of recidivism.

The commutation, however, came via a 2-1 vote and over the "vehement objections" of Governor Dave Heineman. The Board consists of the State's Attorney General, John Bruning. Secretary of State, John Gale, and the Governor. The Herald guesses that the State's Board has acted in this manner maybe two times in some two decades. See full story here and here.

East Timor: Pardon

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the President of East Timor, Jose Ramos-Horta, has granted pardons to 23 "rebels" who were "involved in attacks in 2008 during which he was shot in the back and almost died."

It is reported that Ramos-Horta granted the pardons, at least in part, because of his belief that the "rebels" were "also victims."

See complete story here.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Explorer. Oil Man. Liar. Pardoned!

On September 1, 1909, Dr. Frederick A. Cook sent a cable to the New York Herald which read:

REACHED NORTH POLE APRIL 21, 1908

The news of Dr. Cook’s achievement spread throughout the United States, and made headlines in Paris and Berlin. It looked like the story of the century was about to unfold in the pages of a struggling newspaper. But, consistent with a theme in Cook’s life, newspapers in London were somewhat skeptical of his claim.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Delaware: Commutation of Sentence

It is reported that Gov. Jack Markell has commuted the life sentence of 64-year old Judith McBride, who fed her former husband a Valium-laced macaroni salad before he was stabbed 25 plus times by an accomplice. As a result, McBride is now eligible for parole. The state parole board and board of pardons both recommended the commutation. See full story here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Welcome Back, Mr. Clemens!

It is reported that a federal grand jury has indicted former major league baseball pitching great Roger Clemens for lying to Congress! The indictment includes one count of obstruction of Congress, two counts of perjury and three counts of making false statements. That all amounts to about 30 years of prison (appropriately 4.28 years per Cy Young Award) and more than a million dollars in fines!

When we last left Mr. Clemens, he was the focus of very mild speculation (most of it within the State of Texas and/or via attorney Richard Emery) concerning a possible last-minute presidential pardon from fellow Texan George W. Bush. Meanwhile Clemens' lawyerRusty Hardin, maintained that such speculation was the mere sport of the "insane" and/or people (like this blogger) "with too much time on their hands," because his client would "never" be convicted of anything.

At the time of this post, Mr. Hardin is speechless re three decades of prison his client is facing. He will, no doubt, get back to the media with some witty remark ASAP. One now might recall former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's rather chipper insistence, several months ago, that he had "nothing but sunshinehanging over him.

Welcome back to PardonPower's Watch List, Mr. Clemens! See story here and here.

Ohio: Rejection

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports the State's eight member Parole Board has unanimously recommend that  governor Ted Strickland not extend clemency to 46-year-old Kevin Keith, who is scheduled for execution on September 15. Keith is charged with the 1994 slaying of three individuals and the injury of three others, but there is increasing concern that he may actually be innocent of the crimes for which he has been charged. See story here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blago Convicted, But It Is Not Over!

Convicted on 1 count! That's right, just 1!

Historically, State governors have had a pretty good record of having charges against them dropped, convictions being overturned, acquittal and clemency (pardons and commutations of sentence).

Here is PardonPower's list of governors in trouble, Illinois governors are highlighted in bold print.

John Quitman, MS (1851) - indicted, resigned
Zebulon Vance, NC (1865) - arrested as Confederate, beneficiary of amnesty
David Butler, NE (1871) - impeached, removed, then impeachment was expunged
William H. Holden, NC (1871) - impeached, removed
Rufus Brown Bullock, GA (1871) - resigned, acquitted
Adelbert Ames, MS (1876) - impeached, resigned
William Sulzer, NY (1913) - impeached, removed
James E. Ferguson, TX (1917) - indicted, resigned right before impeachment
Lennington Small, IL (1922) - acquitted
John C. Walton, OK (1923) - impeached, removed
Warren T. McCray, IN (1924) - convicted, resigned, then pardoned
Henry S. Johnston, OK (1929) - impeached, removed
Henry Horton, TN (1931) - impeached, then acquitted
William Langer, ND (1934) - convicted, vacated office, then acquitted
Richard Leche, LA (1939) - resigned, convicted, pardoned
William G. Stratton, IL (1965) - acquitted 
Otto Kerner, IL (1973) - convicted after term, prison
Dan Walker, IL (1977) - convicted after term, prison
Marvin Mandel, MD (1977) - resigned, commutation of sentence
Ray Blanton, TN (1981) - vacated office, acquitted, then convicted after term
Evan Mecham, AZ (1988) - impeached, removed, then acquitted
Guy Hunt, AL (1993) - convicted, then removed
David Walters, OK (1994) - indicted, plead guilty to misdemeanor
Jim Guy Tucker, AR (1996) - convicted, then resigned
J. Fife Symington, AZ (1997) - convicted, resigned, won an appeal, then pardoned
Edwin W. Edwards, LA (1998) - convicted after term, pardon application in
Edward DiPrete, RI (1998) - convicted after term
John G. Rowland, CN (2004) - resigned, then convicted
James McGreevey, NJ (2004) - resigned
Bob Taft, OH (2006) - convicted of four misdemeanors
George Ryan, IL (2006) - convicted after term, prison, pardon application in
Ernie Fletcher, KY (2006) - indicted, charges dropped
Don Siegelman, AL (2006) - indicted, charges dropped, convicted after term
Eliot Spitzer, NY (2008) - resigned, no charges filed
Rod Blagojevich, IL (2010) - impeachedconvicted

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Maryland: The Case of Mark Farley Grant

Dan Rodricks has an editorial in the Baltimore Sun re the case of one Mark Farely Grant, who was convicted of murder at the age of 15. Rodricks notes that it was more than two years ago since professors and students at the University of Maryland School of Law finished an investigative report concluding Grant was wrongfully convicted. The report was then filed with Maryland Governor Martin O'Mally, a "no-parole-for-lifers Democrat" who, now, is "not about to exert any energy to spring a guy from prison" in an election year.

Rodrick forecfully argues that the Governor "has a duty, one could say a moral duty, to review requests for clemency and claims of wrongful conviction, particularly those that arrive on his desk with a credible foundation." But, while a commutation might deliver a "clear conscience" to the Governor, "there aren't any votes in it." Notes Rodrick:
... there's a big difference between being "soft" — instituting law enforcement or corrections policies that might be considered too lenient or prove to be flawed — and being just. Justice is something everyone embraces, across political lines, and the quest of it is honorable. You can't have justice until you get to the truth, and several pages of truth, with regard to Mark Farley Grant, went to the governor's desk more than two years ago.
See full editorial here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Massachusetts: The case of Joe Donovan

Adrian Walker of the Boston Globe believes the case of Joe Donovan deserves a second look. Donovon and two others were charged with the murder of an MIT student in 1992. The two others served 11- and 12- year sentences respectively, but Donovan rejected a plea bargain that offered him a life sentence with the possibility of parole and wound up with a conviction that got him a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Now, Donovan is seeking a second chance, and this article notes that the judge who presided over the trial, supports commutation of the sentence to allow for the possibility of parole. The family of the victim also supports the application. But, Walker writes:
The prospects of reaching that point are not good, statistically speaking. Patrick has not granted a single commutation. The Parole Board has only recommended one, for Arnie King, who is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. Patrick rejected their recommendation.
The piece then proceeds to blame the "politics" of Willie Horton for this dearth of clemency, but it seems much more appropriate to blame the "politics" of Maurice Clemens at this point. The Horton case never was as clear cut as mere citation might suggest. Democrats, for example, were the first to draw attention to the case, not Republicans. Second, the Horton case was just as much about reform of the law as it was alternative release mechanisms. But the sloppy media mauling of Mike Huckabee, in the more recent case of Clemens sent a more stark, realistic picture of what the Nation's journalists are willing to do / write in order to build up a headline. See story here.

Korea: Almost 2,500 Pardons

The Korea Times reports President Lee Myung-bak has granted "special pardons" to more than 2,400 criminals including "politicians, public servants and businessmen." The pardons came in celebration of the 65th anniversary of Liberation Day. A Justice minister also said the pardon were "aimed at boosting social integration and unity, and resolving political conflicts." Among the more notable recipients: Roh Geon-pyeong, an elder brother of the late former President Roh Moo-hyun; Kim Won-ki, a former National Assembly speaker from the main opposition Democratic Party (DP); and Suh Chung-won, a former lawmaker and close aide to Park Geun-hye, the ex-chairwoman of the governing Grand National Party (GNP), Lee Hak-soo, former vice chairman of Samsung Electronics; Kim Jun-ki, former chairman of Dongbu Group; Yoo Sang-boo, former chairman of POSCO; and Park Kun-bae, former chairman of Haitai Group. The same minister said pardons were given to businessmen in order to "give them opportunities to contribute to society and create more jobs." Most of those pardoned were convicted of violating election-related laws during campaigns for the 2006 local polls and the 2007 presidential election. See story here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rostenkowski, Dead

Former Illinois Democratic Representative Dan Rostenkowski, who plead guilty to two (of seventeen original) counts of mail fraud and went to federal prison for a year and a half, has died at the age of 82. Rostenkowski served 18 terms in Congress, but feared that his obituary would generally be "Dan Rostenkowski, felon." Bill Clinton, however, granted the Chicagoan a presidential pardon, and the application was supported by former Republican President Gerald R. Ford (whose judgement in matters related to clemency is, of course, legendary). NPR reports Rostenkowski admitted to "hiring people on his congressional payroll who did little or no official work - but took care of his lawn, took photographs at political events and family weddings, helped his family's business and supervised the renovation of his house." Rostenkowski argued that his fraudulent use of thousands upon thousands of tax payers' dollar was a mere violation of House rules and not an actual "crime." Good bye, Dan. Good riddance! See full story here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

International: Former Champ Dead

Former Czech cyclo-cross world champion Radomir Simunek has died. The 48 year old Simunek became the junior world champion in 1980 and amateur world champion in 1983 and 1984. He then won the professional title in 1991. But, in 1992, he caused a car accident in which three people were killed, and served four months in prison. He was released via a presidential pardon. See story here.

Ohio: Request Gathers Support

Amid growing concern that the State of Ohio may be on the verge of executing an innocent man, prominent individuals from Ohio and across the country today called on the Ohio Parole Board and Governor Ted Strickland to grant clemency to Kevin Keith.

Mr. Keith is scheduled for execution on September 15, 2010, despite new overwhelming evidence of innocence that no court or jury has ever heard in its entirety. The new evidence shows that Mr. Keith was wrongfully convicted based on faulty and improperly influenced eyewitness identification. Additional new evidence identifies an alternative suspect who told a police informant that he was paid to carry out the crime for which Mr. Keith now stands to be executed.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Obama Signs the Not As Much Unfair Sentencing Act

Like many other politicians, President Obama has, in the past, expressed very specific and serious sounding concerns about sentencing disparities in crack/powder cocaine law. For that reason, some had hope that he would employ the pardon power as John F. Kennedy. However, 560 days into the term, the Obama Justice Department has actually not shown a single sign that it is even aware that the pardon power is in the Constitution. Today, Obama has agreed with Congress' efforts to address the problem, by signing the Fair Sentencing Act - which, the careful observer will note, still allows for unfair sentencing, but just not as much! The disparity has simply been reduced from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1. The edges could could certainly be smoothed out through systematic use of the clemency, but that might be more hope and change than possible.

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