Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Back: The PardonPower Blog in 2010

It has certainly been another great year for what we like to call "the little blog that can" ... though we are not quite sure what "can" really means!

The big event was our transition to a three column presentation, the direct by-product of coercion by Blogger and our visits to Doug Berman' Sentencing Law and Policy blog (and resulting column envy). Our "authority" increased from just above 400 to 554 and we have yet to develop any clue on earth as to exactly what that means.

Per usual, December was our busiest month (see chart below). But, along the way, the blog received more and more coverage by National media (see left column citations) and we have certainly benefited from links our way from the folks at Huffington PostSentencing Law and Policy, Grits for Breakfast, Reason Online, NPR, the Wall Street Journal and Families Against Mandatory Minimums ... a mighty diverse group that!

Conditional Pardons, eh?

With all of the chatter re Haley Barbour's conditional pardon of the Scott sisters, it is a great time for interested readers to review Harold Krent's fine work entitled Presidential Powers (2005), a work, in part spring-boarded by a 2001 California Law Review article by Krent on conditional pardons.

Many presidential pardons and commutations have been conditioned upon the recipient leaving the country - usually “soon” but, in some instances, “forever.” And, in most of those instances, "forever" constituted a longer period of time than their original sentence!

Curiously, many acts of clemency have required the individuals to simply leave the Washington, D.C. area. Benjamin Ahley was pardoned in 1853 on the condition that he leave Washington until he was twenty-one years of age. In 1861, Charles de Villies was asked to leave the same area, but only for a period of five years. Jesus Pena (1920) was released on the condition that he be deported to Mexico. Victoria Pool (1877) was pardoned on the condition that she leave Washington and “be removed” to North Carolina. Samuel Edgar McIlhenny was allowed to leave prison in 1922, but only if he left with his mother. And, she had to take his little butt right back to Dallas.

Mississippi: Barbour's Statement on the Scott Sisters

“Today, I have issued two orders indefinitely suspending the sentences of Jamie and Gladys Scott. In 1994, a Scott County jury convicted the sisters of armed robbery and imposed two life sentences for the crime. Their convictions and their sentences were affirmed by the Mississippi Court of Appeals in 1996.

To date, the sisters have served 16 years of their sentences and are eligible for parole in 2014. Jamie Scott requires regular dialysis, and her sister has offered to donate one of her kidneys to her. The Mississippi Department of Corrections believes the sisters no longer pose a threat to society. Their incarceration is no longer necessary for public safety or rehabilitation, and Jamie Scott’s medical condition creates a substantial cost to the State of Mississippi.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mississippi: Suspension of Sentence

Gov. Haley Barbour has been considering clemency on behalf of Gladys and Jamie Scott who have served almost two decades in prison after being found guilty of armed robbery by a jury. The convictions and the sentences were both upheld on appeal. In addition, the State's Parole Board refused to recommend a pardon or commutation of sentence. Much has been made of the fact that their heist netted about $11, but we are not aware of any statute which allows armed robbery if there is no profit!

Then again, Barbour did not grant clemency in the traditional sense. Instead he "issued two orders indefinitely suspending" the sentences of the Scott sisters. In his explanation for the decision, Barbour noted one sister "requires regular dialysis" and her "medical condition creates a substantial cost to the State of Mississippi." See story here.

Pennsylvania: Three Commutations of Sentence

It is reported that Gov. Ed Rendell is about to commute the sentences of three convicted killers - Keith O. Smith, William Fultz and Tyrone Werts - who have spent decades behind bars. A spokesman says none were guilty of the actual killings and their accomplices all received lighter sentences. See story here.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Michigan: Commutation Revoked

Imagine this: A man is convicted of first degree murder and, when the sentence is about to be announced, the judge says, "What do you think you deserve?" The convicted murderer says, "Oh, about 10 years, max." The judge then slams down the gavel and announces the sentence, "Ten years. Max."

Now imagine this: A man is sentenced to life in prison, but his supporters argue, persuasively, that he is innocent. So, the governor commutes the sentence to time served. When the guards come to release the prisoner, he says, "No, actually I like it here. I get three square meals a day. Have a library. Access to television and sports. I think I would like to stay here, thanks."

New York: Pardon John O'Hara!

Today, the New York Daily News argues that Gov. Paterson "must pardon John O’Hara," whose "unjust felony conviction" makes clemency on his behalf a "very easy case." Indeed, O'Hara's case has no "complications" and is "as clear-cut as they come." The News says O'Hara's 1999 arrest - for voting from the wrong address - rendered him "the first person convicted in New York for voting since suffragist Susan B. Anthony in 1873." The felony meant that he would lose his law license, pay a $20,000 fine, do 1,500 hours of community service and serve five years' probation. Last year, a state appellate found "grave doubts that Mr. O'Hara did anything that justified his criminal prosecution." See News editorial here.

Obama Focusing on Vick?

According to the Washington Post, President Obama phoned the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles and "weighed in on the redemption of Michael Vick" (see our Pardon Watch List of December 1).


That's right, Jeffrey Lurie, says the President believes "so many people who serve time never get a fair second chance" and that it is "never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail." It is, indeed, utterly fantastic that Lurie has revealed this, because there is so very precious little evidence that the President has these feelings otherwise!

But, if you are a regular reader of this blog, and you are not laughing already, get this: the President supposedly also said that "he was happy that [the Eagles] did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall."

Yep, that all of that came from the slowest Democratic President in history to grant a single pardon. That came from the President who, after 700 plus days "on the national stage," has granted only 9 pardons. That came from the President who has let thousands of applications pile up in the Department of Justice, but can seem to only address a handful of minor offenses committed 20-30 years ago. See story here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Top Ten Clemency Stories of 2010

Here, in our humble opinion are the Top Ten Clemency Stories of 2010. Each item is also linked. Simply click on the associated number. Oh, and by the way, sorry, no Billy the Kid nonsense here:

Number 10: The Mighty Quinn - When former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) was run out of office, he left a stack of literally thousands of clemency applications behind, some dating back more than a decade. His replacement, Pat Quinn (D) promised to address the applications as best as he could, in a more timely fashion. In his mind, timely attention is implicit in the very notion of a just application process. Quinn kept his word.

New Mexico: Kid Dead. Pardon Idea Should Follow Suit

The Washington Times notes Gov. Bill Richardson (D) has "just a few days left in his second and final four-year term in office, and will spend some of it deciding whether to grant a petition to pardon Billy the Kid."

Margaret Colgate Love says the stunt "demonstrates a kind of trivialization of the pardon power" and "doesn't bear any relationship to the needs of real people in the criminal justice system" that Richardson "should be addressing." She also notes that, in the only two cases of federal pardons for dead persons (Henry Flipper and Charlie Winters), both were proven to be reputable citizens - a category that no sober person has ever placed Billy the Kid in. Finally, Ms. Love asserts that, if Gov. Richardson "had spent even a quarter of the time addressing the real-life difficulties of the citizens of his state ... as he has on this silly publicity stunt, his state would be a lot better off."

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. (the Editor of this blog) calls the potential pardon "wildly inappropriate" and wishes Richardson would choose some other constitutional power to denigrate, like a "proclamation" or executive order. "Pardons," he says "should be for living people." Ruckman also asks, if this really such a pressing issue of justice, why didn't Richardson grant the pardon years and years ago? Why has he had it on the plate all of this time, but has chosen his final days in office as the decision making period?

New Hampshire: Major Call for Pardon!

More than 100 State Representatives have signed a petition, asking Governor John Lynch to release a 49-year old farmer, one Ward Bird, before Christmas. Bird, the owner of 60 acres, warned an individual to get off of his property, which was posted with "no trespassing" and "private property" signs. At the time, he was carrying a gun. But, according to him, it never left the holster. Oddly, the individual (a convicted felon) was never charged with trespassing, even though she refused to leave the property.

Bird's wife and four children may be hopeful, but, according to this source, it just isn't going to happen. His clemency application is said to be "making its way through the system." After rejecting a plea bargain, Bird did not testify on his own behalf and his lawyers never called a single witness to the stand. The result was a three-year prison sentence.

Since 2005, when he took office, Governor Lynch has granted only 2 pardon "hearings." One of the applications was then denied and the other was tabled. The result is that only about 20 people a year even bother to apply for a pardon in the State of New Hampshire. You can also read more about this story here.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

New Mexico: Richardson, A First Class Dunce

What has Gov. Bill Richardson (D) " considered" for "the last eight years?" What "documentation" has he been pouring over? What is his dilemma? Believe it or not: it is whether or not it is a good idea to grant a pardon ... to a fugitive from justice who murdered two officers of the law ... over one hundred years ago !!! Mandatory minimums? Disparate sentences? Overly harsh laws? Battered spouses? Over-zealous prosecutors? Erroneous convictions? Rehabilitation? Restoration of civil rights?

Nonsense. Mere child's play! Richardson is more about making the really tough issues, in matters most relevant to justice and welfare of the citizens of his state ... just before he leaves office!

Friday, December 24, 2010

New York: 24 Pardons for Immigrants Facing Deportation

The New York Daily News reports Gov. Paterson "has granted pardons to 24 people who faced deportation because of their crimes" - many as a result of drug related offenses. In a statement, Patterson said it is "abundantly clear" that "the Federal government's immigration laws are often excessively harsh and in need of modernization." He added that those who "committed past offenses but paid their debt to society" should be"protected from inflexible and misguided immigration statutes."
"That our Federal government does not credit rehabilitation, nor account for human suffering is antithetical to the ideals this country represents. With these pardons, I have selected cases that exemplify the values of New York State and any civilized society: atonement, forgiveness, compassion, and the need to achieve justice, and not simply strict adherence to unjust statutes ... I will not turn my back on New Yorkers who enrich our lives and care for those who suffer."
See full story here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Illinois: Clemency As It Should Be

When former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) neglected the clemency power and left a huge backlog of clemency applications - in the thousands, some dating back a decade - Pat Quinn (D) stepped in and promised to do his best to exercise the power more responsibly. And Quinn has kept his word.

Today, Quinn granted 34 pardons. But he has not been a last-minute, on-his-way-out-of-office Santa Claus figure in these matters. He has been plugging away at the applications year round. Since taking office, Quinn has granted 371 pardons and denied 524 applications. See story here.

Will Obama Allow an Execution?

Josh Gerstein, at notes that Eric Holder's Justice Department "is making preparations for what could be the first federal execution under President Barack Obama."

Gerstein notes three federal executions took place under President George W. Bush. Before the execution of Oklahoma City federal building bomber Timothy McVeigh (2001) "the federal government went almost four decades without carrying out an execution" - the last being Victor Feguer (kidnapping), who was executed in 1963. The other two individuals executed during the Bush administration were Juan Garza (murder), executed in 2001, and Louis Jones, Jr. (murder) executed in March of 2003.

New York: Commutation of Sentence

Governor David A. Paterson (D) has announced that he has commuted the prison sentence of John White, who was convicted of Manslaughter in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of a Weapon (a shotgun) in the Third Degree in 2006. The commutation is conditioned, however, upon White's good behavior.

Paterson issued a statement which said that, while the case "engendered much controversy and comment" and "varying assessments of justice were perceived," the most "common feature" was "heartbreak." Patterson also recognized that his decision would be "an affront to some and a joy to others," but his objective was "only to seek to ameliorate the profound suffering that occurred as a result of this tragic event." He added that he was "committed to working to heal the pain" that the killing caused "to the affected families and community" and that "understanding, forgiveness and hope," are "the essential components of justice." See story here.

Texas: Clemency Dysfunction

Brandi Grissom gives the clemency process of Texas a lot of needed attention in the Texas Tribune today. After noting Governor Rick Perry (R) recently granted 8 pardons, the piece starts off with this blast:
Pardoning is a holiday tradition of sorts for state governors and the president, who, at the end of each year, name the fortunate few former offenders whose records will get wiped clean ...“It’s not much different than pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey,” says Scott Henson, who writes the criminal justice blog Grits for Breakfast. “They just pick eight or nine trivial cases at Christmas time.”
While Perry has been no George W. Bush (who granted only 21 pardons), he is making his mark, or non-mark, on clemency. He has granted 180 pardons since 2001. On the other hand, former Governor Mark White (D) granted almost 500 pardons and former Governor Bill Clements (R) granted more than 800. Even more disturbing is the fact that the Sate's Board of Pardons and Paroles (whose members the governor appoints), has recommended clemency to Perry in more than 530 cases. The result, a steady, very slight, trickle of Holiday pardons:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Colorado: 20 Pardons!

Gov. Bill Ritter is on his way out of office so he is granting last-minute, Christmas time pardons like 18th century monarch. One of 20 pardons granted today, went to the Reverend Leon Kelley who "has devoted his life to helping teens and ex-convicts escape or avoid gangs." A public statement says the individuals who were pardoned "have demonstrated great remorse, an effort at redeeming themselves from prior criminal acts, and in some cases, significant involvement in their community."

The Governor also says that he pardoned people whose whose careers were affected by their convictions, so they could "move forward forward as a productive member of the workforce, of their community and of society."

Indeed, hopefully, none of the waited too many years for what the Governor is also allowed to do any time during the first three years of the term, and - believe it or not - in all twelve months of the year! In Ritter's defense, his predecessor, Bill Owens (R) granted only 13 pardons in 8 years! See story here.

Michigan: Commutation of Sentence

The Battle Creek Enquirer reports that Governor Granholm has decided to follow the recommendation of the State's parole board and commute the sentence of 43-year-old Matthew Makowski, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 1988 and sentenced to life in prison. See full story here.

Speaking of Pardons and Outlaw Types ...

Presidents have granted clemency to the likes of:

Ed Reed (1883) - horse thief, son of Belle Starr, "the Outlaw Queen," or "the Female Jesse James" and the outlaw James Reed (of the James-Younger Gang)

Bluford Duck (1895) - murderer who took the time to pose for a nice portrait just after he was sentenced to hang by Isaac Parker

David Anderson (1896) - aka "Billy Wilson" and "Buffalo Bill," joined Billy the Kid's gang, arrested by Pat Garrett, escaped from prison and went all respectable

Henry Starr (1903) - who started robbing banks on horseback and graduated to the automobile.

Al Jennings (1907) - from a gang to politics and the movies

New Mexico: Little Energy for Anything But the Dead Kid

According to this report, Gov. Bill Richardson, while all about making publicity hay out of a potential pardon for the long dead gunslinger Billy the Kid, has been "dragging his feet" when it comes to informing the public about anything else related to clemency in his state. Requests for information "dating back to last month" will "take some time," but his office "is working on it." Peter St. Cyr, a freelance journalist, and The New Mexican asked about clemency applicants last month, but have been told that their requests "are too broad or burdensome."

According to the report, the state has "released information about people who were pardoned or had their sentences commuted" in the past. So, according to The Albuquerque Tribune Richardson pardoned 11 people and commuted 1 sentence in 2004. In 2005, he pardoned 28 people. His predecessor, Gary Johnson, averaged 14 and 18 pardons a year across two terms respectively.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monitor in Over Its Head

Over at the Christian Science Monitor, they are sporting a list of ... well ... it isn't exactly easy to classify what it is. It is described as a "surprise" list of pardons, but at least three were hardly a "surprise," one was given to a dead person and another has not even been granted. Lesson? Don't try this at home kids! Wait for our own - more serious and relevant - Top Ten Clemency Stories of 2010.

For now, here is what they came up with over at the Monitor:

6. Brian Aitken (hardly a surprise)
5. Ronald Foster (hardly significant!)
4. Apple and Cider (hardly a surprise)
3. The pardon capital: Nevis, Minn.
2. Jim Morrison, the Lizard King (dead)
1. Billy the Kid: A promised but deferred reprieve? (not yet granted)

See entire piece here.

Grits on Recent Texas Pardons

Scott Henson (Grits for Breakfast) is all over the Governor of Texas re a recent lame batch of pardons. Says Henson:
Indeed, it's hard to not consider these pardons a "joke" when you look at the details. E.g., a 73-year old man was granted clemency for a theft conviction from 1955. If the governor had waited any longer he might have had to issue his second ever posthumous pardon. Another pardon recipient spent three days in jail 31 years ago for unlawfully carrying a handgun. If it's true that justice delayed is justice denied, these latter-day pardons hardly constitute justice.

And why pardon one individual who "was convicted of possession of marihuana in 1971 at the age of 21"? What does it really matter if someone is pardoned who received a probated sentence 40 years ago? There are hundreds of thousands of others in the exact same position, after all, who will never benefit from such gubernatorial largesse.

In 2009, 57.9% of all drug arrests in Texas were for marijuana - a total of 69,956 adults. Similar numbers are arrested for marijuana possession annually, and there's no reason to believe this one individual is any more deserving than others who've been arrested for that offense. Issuing a pardon on a 40 year old pot charge is insulting not just to the person pardoned but to the hundreds of thousands of other people similarly positioned who did not receive clemency. If the Governor is going to issue pardons for such petty offenses, the only fair thing to do would be to pardon entire classes of offenders - for example, pot offenders with no other convictions on their record.
See the full, rather snappy post here!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tennessee: Last Minute Mercy? reports 227 clemency applications "have poured into" Governor Bredesen's office. 158 have been "reviewed" by the State's Board of Probation and Parole, but only five "have been sent to the governor's desk for approval." A spokeswoman says the Governor is "now reviewing clemency petitions and will make a determination in the coming weeks." See story here.

New Jersey: Sentence Commuted !

Gov. Chris Christie has commuted the seven-year prison sentence of 27-year old Brian Aitken to time served. Aitken was charged with "possession of a handgun and cop-killer bullets," but served only a few weeks of the sentence. The handguns were unloaded at the time of the arrest and in the trunk of his car. The commutation order is, however, "subject to a revocation of his release at any time at the discretion of the governor." See story here and here.

We also highly recommend Radley Balko's article on this case, here.

Texas: Eight Pardons

It is reported that Governor Perry has granted clemency to eight individuals. Each applicant was "favorably recommended for clemency" by the State's Board of Pardons and Paroles. Among the offenses addressed were: criminal mischief and theft (1996), criminal mischief (1999), burglary (1986), theft (1985), unlawfully carrying a handgun (?), theft (1990), theft (1955), possession of marihuana (1971). See story here.

Magnificent Display of Misplaced Priorities

Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic has a super fantastic piece which begins with the observation that, "One of the most damning character indictments of recent presidents is the cowardly, borderline corrupt way they've misused the pardon power." Friedersdorf notes, "many people deserving an executive reprieve are left to rot in prison" and the "odds of being shown mercy is incalculably higher if you happen to be a personal, political or ideological ally of the president." Obama has "so far been a failure too."

But Friedersdorf believes the "perfect illustration of misplaced priorities" is the attention that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D) is giving to a possible pardon for the long dead outlaw Billy "the Kid." Why spend the same effort determining "the identities of the inevitable innocents incarcerated" or showing mercy to those who have been "imprisoned for years on end despite only having violated drug possession laws"? Friedersdorf  "cannot fathom" how a governor "could be so frivolous and lacking in judgment to spend the last hours of his administration wringing his hands over a long dead man whose guilt isn't in question."

Bravo! Bravo!

See, and comment, on this wonderful piece here.

Michigan: Granholm the Merciful

The Detroit Free Press has an extensive report on the clemency program of  Gov. Granholm "the most merciful chief executive in modern Michigan history, and possibly of all time." The piece notes the governor has granted 179 commutations over the last eight years, "most of them in the last three years, when she has ordered at least one release a week." This year alone she has considered more than 2,000 applications. A spokesperson says Ganholm:
"believes in a deliberative, judicious and limited use of commutation authority Her commutation decisions reflect her desire to protect public safety without ignoring the need to reduce prison costs and bring Michigan's sentencing policies in line with other states."
Granholm's practices are described as "a sharp departure" from her immediate predecessors handled. James Blanchard (D) 1983-90, issued only a half-dozen commutations, all but one during his last week on the job. John Engler (R) 1991-2002, commuted the sentences of only 34 inmates. William Milliken (R), who "has urged Granholm to exercise her authority to grant clemency more generously," commuted only 95 sentences in his 13 years in office.

The report also notes that the "overwhelming majority of inmates whose sentences have been commuted by Granholm were serving for drug crimes or were deemed seriously ill." And, "the state saves money when it releases a seriously ill inmate because the treatment then is picked up by Medicaid or other insurance." In addition, "none of the prisoners released by commutation in the Granholm era has committed a new, violent crime." See story here.

Governors and Mercy is featuring a piece on clemency in the states. Its general theme is that governors tend to show mercy as their terms come to an end. Governor Ed Rendell (PA) has granted 1,059 pardons during his eight years in office, "more than double the state's previous record."  Governor Jennifer Granholm (MI) has commuted 179 prisoners' sentences over the last eight years, "more than any governor in that state in decades." But the piece also asserts, "at the state level, governors commonly grant clemency at the end of their term in office."  See entire piece here.

Georgia: A Strict, But Forgiving State

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has a story on clemency in Georgia. It notes that, currently, there are more than 2,000 "pardon and restoration-of-rights applications pending" before the State's five-person Board of Pardons and Paroles." Each Board member is appointed by the governor and serves 7-year terms. The article says the State has "one of the highest incarceration rates in the world," but it is also "a forgiving state."

Over the last six years, about 1,600 felons have asked the state for forgiveness annually. On average, about 38 percent of requests have been granted. In fiscal year 2010 alone, 561 pardons were granted. Normally, there is a five-year waiting period after the completion of sentence and three letters of recommendation are required. See story here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Decline in Christmas Clemency?

In December of 1999, an article in Christian Science Monitor suggested that, in recent years, there has been a decline in "Christmas Clemency." The article was generally based on the fact that President Clinton had gone a couple of Decembers without granting any pardons or commutations of sentence. Otherwise, no data were presented on the topic.

Using our own original data, we have calculated the total number of December pardons and commutations of sentence, by year and administration, from 1945 (Truman) to 2010 (Obama). Click on the image to the left.

Obama On the Obvious

What dose Obama administration have to say about the 25,000 plus people that are in federal prison, serving sentences based on the 100-1 guidelines which Congress has recently ditched because it is unwise and unjust? A White House "spokesman" has issued the following statement:
"The president was proud to sign into law the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the unwarranted disparity between crack and cocaine sentences. While the act also reflected Congress’ judgment that the law should not be retroactive, the president believes that the Fair Sentencing Act will go a long way toward ensuring that our sentencing laws are tough, consistent and fair."
Hmmm. So the President is proud of the fact that Congress has done the lion's share of work on this issue.  Now, we ask, "When will the President do his part and use the pardon power for what it was designed for?"  See associated story here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Let Ryan Go Home?

Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun Times is calling on President Obama to let former Illinois Governor George Ryan (R) "go home," even though - in her mind - he "obviously" does not "deserve clemency." Ryan was convicted of racketeering, fraud and lying under oath and given a six and a half year prison sentence. She notes that Ryan's wife is "pleading with Obama to release her husband so that they can be together before she succumbs to lung cancer."

Mitchell finds it ironic that - so far - the request is being ignored, as Ryan "became nationally known for emptying death row and putting a moratorium on the death sentence in Illinois." Perhaps Richard Nixon had the same thing in mind when he set a record for the highest number of individual pardons granted in a single day and then broke his own record!

Regardless, Mitchell says Obama is "following George W. Bush’s play book" when it comes to pardons. In addition to Ryan, who has done "too much for Illinois" to remain in prison, she feels Obama should feel "compelled to open the prison doors" to "thousands upon thousands of people" who were "locked up under mandatory sentencing drug laws." See complete editorial here.

Anticipation ...

Dead ahead:

Another sleepy Friday afternoon in December, and Christmas is near. Is it time, once again, for the Obama administration to woo the A.A.R.P. vote with a handful of pardons for petty crimes committed two to three decades ago?

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway, yay
And I wonder if I'm really with you now
Or just chasin' after some finer day ...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Conservative Case for the Pardon Power

Right On Crime (added to our blog listing) is a new site which claims to focus on "Conservative" views of the criminal justice system. In particular, it takes an interest in reducing crime, reducing the costs of criminal justice, reforming past offenders, restoring victims and protecting communities. In its Statement of Principles, the site notes that "Conservatives are known for being tough on crime," but argues it is also vital to achieve "a cost-effective system that protects citizens, restores victims, and reforms wrongdoers." In addition:
The corrections system should emphasize public safety, personal responsibility, work, restitution, community service, and treatment—both in probation and parole, which supervise most offenders, and in prisons. An ideal criminal justice system works to reform amenable offenders who will return to society through harnessing the power of families, charities, faith-based groups, and communities.
With these very concerns (and others) in mind, here are some reasons why Conservatives should favor well-articulated clemency policies which 1) regularize the process and minimize the tendency toward last-minute blitzes 2) restore a proper balance between the branches of government 3) address the specific concerns of Conservatives and 4) re-educate the American public as to the significance of the pardon power:

Reason 1: The pardon power is explicitly vested in the President of the United States by Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution. It is not derived from a so-called "elastic clause" or inferred from penumbras emanating from the Bill of Rights. The pardon power is not the result of a "test" imposed by judicial fiat, or a goal-oriented construction of the traditions and conscience of the people, or tortured divination of what is implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. It is a power explicitly granted and as firmly entrenched in the Constitution as the provisions creating a House and Senate and the federal judiciary.

Reason 2: In addition to being an explicit feature of our Constitution, the Founding Fathers made a conscious effort to emphasize the importance of this power. Federalist 74 (authored by Alexander Hamilton, who argued for the pardon power in his first speech at the Constitutional Convention) notes that pardons are a logical by-product of "humanity and good policy." Why? Because "the criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity." The cure for this tendency? "Easy access" (yes, you read that right), "easy access" to "exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt." Otherwise, says Federalist 74, "justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel."

Reason 3: The pardon power is not a fetish of ancient monarchs that accidentally crept its way into the Constitution. It is an important part of our system of checks and balances. Although political scientists have long recognized that our government more accurately features "shared" powers (as opposed to truly "separated" powers), the fact of the matter is that each branch has its unassailable weapon in the system of checks and balances. The Supreme Court has judicial review. Congress has the spending power. The president has the pardon power. For centuries, pardons have made up for the lack of flexibility in laws, anticipating - long before Congress - such considerations as reformation and rehabilitation, the juvenile status of offenders, the possibility of insanity, the considerable costs of incarceration, degrees of guilt in relation to murder, etc. Of course, pardons have also been used to blunt the impact of imperfect decision making in the judicial branch. To be sure, Conservative Presidents - for whatever reason - can neglect this power. But they do so at a cost to our political system and in direct contradiction to the intent of the Founding Fathers.

Reason 4: Conservatives have long recognized the importance of incentives, even in the arena of crime and criminal justice. But the public (and, evidently, most in the news media) doesn't seem to be aware of the fact that the typical (as in well over 95 percent) recipient of a presidential (or gubernatorial) pardon, today (and for the last several decades), is someone who has already served their time (if there was any time to serve), has taken care of all associated fines and penalties, and has integrated back into the community as a law-abiding citizen. That is to say, presidential pardons are not springing hardened professional gangland criminals from our prisons and tossing them into the streets, or overturning the judgement of judges and juries. The impact of pardons is to simply restore the civil rights of applicants. The pardon allows them to vote again, serve on a jury, run for public office, own a hunting rifle, etc. The problem is, today, the typical presidential pardon is also granted more than two decades after the offense, when the applicant is probably in his/her 60's or 70's. This, in itself, prompts many to ask, "Why bother? Why does a person even want a pardon?" It is clear that presidential pardons, if granted on a more regular basis, and in a more relevant manner, could provide powerful incentives for hopeful recipients to demonstrate just the kind of reform Conservatives (and every American) should desire.

Reason 5: "Controversial" acts of clemency get the lion's share of attention from the news media, and reasonably so. But this kind of attention invariably warps the public's general perception of pardons and, to some extent, the perceptions of politicians (who tend to view pardons as huge political risks requiring some grand expenditure of political capital). But Conservatives should give a long hard look at recent pardon "controversies." Yes, Democratic presidents have dropped some stink bombs along the way. But, on the Republican side, there is Richard Nixon, the Iran-Contra figures, Scooter Libby, etc. These pardons have all had a distinct "political" feel to them. Indeed, along the way, Republicans frequently expressed concern that Democrats were hunting for "show trials" and "criminalizing" policy differences. If there is even the slightest element of truth to these claims, we must seriously ask: Where would this country be, today, without the pardon power?

Reason 6: Conservatives and Liberals may differ as to the effectiveness of the War on Drugs, but no one doubts that it has failed to accomplish all that was hoped for and that it is very costly. Recently, Democrats and Republicans rolled back the 100 to 1 disparity in crack cocaine sentencing, reducing the ratio to 18 to 1. While the criminal justice system is likely to be more fair, as a result, even the most basic notions of justice (Conservative or Liberal) demand that we now consider the circumstances of those who were convicted under the previous legislation (almost 30,000 inmates). Congress has probably done all that it is going to do in this matter. It is the president who should now consider the careful, systematic use of the pardon power (or, more specifically, commutations of sentence) in individual cases - at a minimum - for first time, non-violent offenders who have already served considerable sentences and show evidence of rehabilitation (just as an example). In addition to approximating fairness, such use of the pardon power could save tax payers millions of dollars.

Reason 7: In recent years, some Conservatives have rethought their position on the death penalty. On the surface, it does seem quite odd that an ideology which seems to instinctively distrust the government would express such enthusiastic support for a process like capital punishment. Conservatives loath the growth of government and the expansion of its power. Catch phrases like "the nanny state" and "over-criminalization" are often employed by Conservative columnists. Or, in the very words of Right on Crime:
Thousands of harmless activities are now classified as crimes in the United States. These are not typical common law crimes such as murder, rape, or theft. Instead they encompass a series of business activities such as importing orchids without the proper paperwork, shipping lobster tails in plastic bags, and even failing to return a library book. There are over 4,000 existing federal criminal laws. (The exact number of laws is unknown because the attorneys at Congressional Research Service who were assigned to count them ran out of resources before they could complete the herculean task.)

In addition to the profusion of federal statutory crimes, there are additional state crimes (Texas alone has over 1,700), and federal regulatory offenses (approximately 300,000). The creation of these often unknowable and redundant crimes, the federalization of certain crimes traditionally prosecuted at the state level, and the removal of traditional mens rea requirements all contribute to a relentless trend known as overcriminalization.
Message to Conservatives: When George Washington worried that the government's charges of treason against the Whiskey Rebels were too Draconian, he pardoned them. When Thomas Jefferson thought the Alien Sedition Acts went too far, he promised, if elected, to pardon those who were convicted. As soon as he became president he pardoned the last individuals who were still being held for writing bad things about John Adams. When Woodrow Wilson had his veto of the Volstead Act overridden, he set records for pardons of individuals who violated drug and alcohol laws. When John F. Kennedy thought mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders were too harsh, he granted pardons accordingly. Jimmy Carter promised a blanket amnesty for Vietnam draft offenders and delivered. It is quite obvious that, if Conservative presidents (and governors) ever decide to get serious about addressing the problems associated with government overreach, the pardon power is there, waiting.

Reason 8: Since the "law and order" campaigns of Richard Nixon, Conservatives have placed every seemingly "soft on crime" politician on the radar. When crime was among the highest concerns of Americans in Gallup polls (the 1960s and 1970s), it was clearly a strategy that worked, at many levels. Would Conservative presidents be going "soft" on crime if they granted pardons - as most presidents have throughout history - frequently, and on a regular basis throughout, the calendar year? There is certainly no doubt that someone, somewhere will make the accusation, especially if a single pardon recipient (out of no matter how many hundreds, or thousands) commits an additional offense. On the other hand, if pardons are granted more frequently, and on a regular basis, the American public (and the media) will quickly learn what has largely been forgotten: again, the typical pardon does not spring anyone from prison. It simply restores rights. An additional benefit of a more regular use of the pardon power is that pardons granted to the president's friends, fellow partisans and political supporters (all of which deserve justice and fair consideration as much as anyone else) will appear less significant. In general, the fewer pardons granted, the more obnoxious such pardons will appear (rightly or wrongly).

Should Conservatives take the lead on this matter? Should they take the risk, when it is much easier to simply do nothing? For the sake of the purity of our political system, in order to benefit from the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, in order to pursue justice and economic efficiency in the criminal justice system and in order to better articulate concerns with / and combat the ever invasive expansion of government ... the answer is clearly "yes."

Arkansas: 15 Pardons!

THV, Little Rock, reports Governor Mike Beebe has announced his intent to grant 15 pardons. In addition, 29 clemency requests were denied. Per usual, all 15 recipients have "completed all jail time, fulfilled all parole-and-probationary requirements and paid all fines related to their sentences." Among the offenses addressed are: Theft of Property (1999), Possession of Controlled Substance (1989), Theft of Property (2002), Burglary, Grand Larceny (1961), Domestic Battery 3rd Degree (1998), Burglary (1986), Carrying a Weapon, Theft, Battery (1974, 1975, 1978), Possession of Controlled Substance, Forgery, Possession of Meth and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Residential Burglary, Theft of Property (1998, 2002), Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Maintaining Drug Premises and Possession with Intent to Deliver (1994), Breaking or Entering (1999, 2000), Theft of Property (2007), Possession of Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver (1986), Theft of Property, Criminal Mischief (2004), Theft of Property (1990), Theft of Property, Filing a False Police Report (1999, 2001). See full story here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Commutation Press Teleconference

For Immediate Release: December 15, 2010

THURSDAY PRESS TELECONFERENCE: Clinton Commutation Beneficiaries Call on President Obama to Expedite Clemency for Crack Cocaine Prisoners

Recent federal legislation reducing the 100-to-1 cocaine sentencing disparity will not benefitthose in prison. Advocates will fast and pray for justice on December 22, 10-year anniversary of Clinton crack cocaine commutations

WASHINGTON, DC—Advocates for presidential clemency will join together for a press teleconference on Thursday, December 16 to urge President Obama to expedite clemency for people serving excessive terms under the now-reformed federal crack cocaine sentencing laws. Participants will be commemorating the 10-year anniversary of President Clinton’s commutation of Kemba Smith and Dorothy Gaines, two women sent to federal prison for 24 and 19 years, respectively, for playing peripheral roles in their boyfriends’ drug operations. Joining the women on the press teleconference will be members of the Crack the Disparity Coalition, a broad coalition of civil rights, faith-based, drug policy, criminal justice reform advocacy groups, and formerly incarcerated people.

New: The Justice of Mercy

From the University of Michigan Press: The Justice of Mercy, with text by Linda Ross Meyer
Paper 978-0-472-11745-1 / $65.00

"This book addresses a question both ancient and urgently timely: how to reconcile the law's call to justice with the heart's call to mercy? Linda Ross Meyer's answer is both philosophical and pragmatic, taking us from the conceptual roots of the supposed conflict between justice and mercy to concrete examples in both fiction and contemporary criminal law. Energetic, eloquent, and moving, this book's defense of mercy will resonate with philosophers, legal scholars, lawyers, and policymakers engaged with criminal justice, and anyone concerned about our current harshly punitive legal system." Carol Steiker, Harvard Law School

How can granting mercy be just if it gives a criminal less punishment than he "deserves" and treats his case differently from others like it? This ancient question has become central to debates over truth and reconciliation commissions, alternative dispute resolution, and other new forms of restorative justice. The traditional response has been to marginalize mercy and to cast doubt on its ability to coexist with forms of legal justice.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pardon for Dakota Indian?

Although the Obama Justice Department has already deep-sixed the idea of posthumous pardons (in response to calls for the pardon of long-dead boxing champion / bad boy Jack Johnson), the New York Times reports there is some interest in pursuing a pardon for one We-Chank-Wash-ta-don-pee (aka Chaska), who was hanged along with 37 other Dakota Indians on December 26, 1862.

According to the story, Abraham Lincoln commuted Chaska's sentence just one day before the hanging, but he was executed anyway, along with the “most ferocious” followers of the Dakota leader Little Crow, who were accused of killing almost 500 settlers along the Minnesota frontier.

Gary C. Anderson, a University of Oklahoma history professor says the soldiers who carried out the execution "just grabbed the wrong guy.” Gwen Westerman, a professor of English at Minnesota State University at Mankato adds that "it’s time to talk about it and time for people to know about it.” The effort is reported to be supported by Representative James L. Oberstar (D-Minn) and Senator Al Franken (D-Minn). See complete story here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wisconsin: The Record of Three Governors

Green Bay's Post reports the three most recent governors (Doyle, McCallum and Thompson, from 1988 to 2010) "pardoned nearly 500 people convicted of crimes." Doyle, the current governor has issued 260 pardons to date, while McCallum granted only 11 (in two years) and Thompson granted 225 (in four years). Doyle has yet to commute a sentence. Thompson did it 5 times.

The reports says "several convicted killers" have been pardoned along the way and, the average age of people who have received pardons from Doyle has been 45. They committed crimes, on average, when they were 23 years old.

The State has a seven-member state Pardon Advisory Board (appointed by the governor) that considers clemency applications and makes recommendations to the governor. Doyle is said to take the process "seriously." And why on earth would he not? See story here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Coming Soon !

Coming soon, the PardonPower blog's Top Ten Clemency Stories for the year 2010.


Here is last year's list.

Updating the Pardon Power Blog

Now you can share posts on the PardonPower blog more easily than ever with your Facebook pals or that whole Tweet business!

See the newly installed tool box at the bottom of each post.

Pennsylvania: Rendell Generous with Clemency

The CourierPostOnline reports Governor Rendell (a former district attorney) has granted 1,059 pardons "more than twice as many pardons as any other governor in modern times." He is also said to be "considering" dozens of others before he leaves office.

The reports provides the following pardon data for previous governors: Milton Shapp (475), Dick Thornburgh (61), Robert Casey (311), Tom Ridge (270) and Mark Schweiker (338). A spokesperson for the governor, however, says applications increased by a factor of 10 during Rendell's administration.

According to the report, the "most common charges" pardoned by Rendell have been "shoplifting, other forms of theft and drug offenses." He has also been fond of attaching conditions to pardons, which demand no further brushes with the law, or the pardon is cancelled. Most pardon seekers are said to be "motivated by employment-related issues." See full story here.

New York: Senator Opposes Clemency reports Sen. Michael Nozzolio "is calling on" Gov. David Paterson to deny a request for clemency from one Holly Coomber, who participated in a 1986 robbery where someone was murdered. She was just 17 years old at the time, but a 12 to 25 year prison sentence followed. It is also reported that the Senator was contacted by the family of the victim. See complete story here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Florida: Clemency Decisions!

Florida AP reports Governor Crist and the State's Executive Clemency Board have "commuted the lengthy prison sentences of two women at their last executive clemency meeting before they leave office on Jan. 4." The Board is reported to have "considered" as many as 80 other requests "for pardons, commutations and the restoration of civil and gun possession rights."

61-year old Timothy YaQuinto, convicted of drug trafficking, had his civil rights restored. 49-year old Suzanne Squires had her 23-year sentence for a drunk driving crash commuted. She will have served 10 years. Monique Baker will be released from her 35-year sentence for cocaine trafficking. Jack Gruber was pardoned for his 1983 burglary conviction. See full story here.

Colorado: Ritter Saves Justice for Last-Minute Consideration

KDVR Fox 31, Denver, reports that Governor Bill Ritter claims to be working on a "stack full" of clemency applications. He leaves office on January 11. The report says Ritter's "legal counsel" says the governor (a former prosecutor)  "has granted a handful of pardon requests over the past four years." We are left to guess that they must not keep track of these things well in Colorado, or it is all kept very secret, or the reporter just didn't have the time to gather any pertinent facts for the story! The report does share that former Republican Governor Bill Owens granted 13 pardons in the eight years that he was in office. See story here.

Florida: Commutation of Sentence reports that the State's Board of Executive Clemency has voted unanimously to commute the 35-year prison sentence of 50-year old Monique Baker. Baker, described as "model inmate," was "classified as a habitual offender after committing burglary and other crimes to support a life of substance abuse."  Her original sentence was actually 90 years. A former high school principal, a retired sheriff's office "official" and a "civic activist" testified on Baker's behalf. See full story here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Politics Daily "Copy Editor" Needs Editing

Carla Baranauckas, a "copy editor" at, is apparently anxious to sting Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty the way Al Gore stung Michael Dukakis with a question about "weekend passes for convicted criminals" back in the 1988 Democratic debates. It was Dukakis, of course who granted a weekend furlough to convicted killer Willie Horton, who then proceeded to kidnap a couple, stab a man and rape a woman. The sensible person reasonably asks, "What in the world does that have to do with Governor Pawlenty?"

Oklahoma: Recommendation

KTUL ABC 8 reports that the State's Pardon and Parole board has voted 3-2 to ask governor Brad Henry to commute the 25-year prison sentence of 60-year old Lawrence Tyrone Watts, who happens to be the brother of former U.S. Representative J.C. Watts. Watts, who has served only 7 years of his sentence, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter. Apparently, there was a dispute between the two men regarding money. It is reported that the victim's  family and a county prosecutors "had fought to keep [Watts] behind bars. See full story here and an earlier report here.

Texas: Perry's Clemency Record

Over at Grits for Breakfast, Scott Henson and fine folks are expecting Governor Perry to grant Holiday pardons "like clockwork." But they also provide a great service by showing aggregate data for clemency decisions throughout the entirety of Perry's administration (cases considered, recommendations for clemency and actual grants). In addition, percentages are  reported for recommendations, grants and the overall chance of obtaining clemency.

Altogether, the State's Board of Pardons and Paroles has considered 1,916 cases. The Board has also recommended clemency in 423 of those cases. Governor Perry, however, has only granted clemency in 124 instances. Thus, on average (annually), Rick Perry disagrees with the recommendations of the State's Board a whopping 75 percent of the time. See full post here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Other Basketball Great from North Carolina

Charles "Tex" Harrison was a star basketball player at North Carolina Central and became the first player from a predominately black school to be named "All-American." He went on to become a long-time star of the world renowned Harlem Globetrotters. But Harrison found more serious competition than the Washington Generals when Customs Service officials at Houston’s International Airport arrested him in the 1960's.

Harrison was charged with "unlawful possession of narcotics without paid transfer tax" because he was caught carrying less than an ounce of marihuana and hashish. A conviction followed on November 24, 1965, and Harrison was fined two thousand dollars. The sentence was, however, modified on January 21, 1966. Harrison was given five year’s probation and the fine was reduced to only five hundred dollars.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Speaking of Pardons and Immigration Law ...

As Governor Paterson (NY) appears serious about using the pardon power to address weaknesses in immigration law and policy, we encourage our readers to check out Samuel T. Morison's article entitled “Presidential Pardons and Immigration Law," which is forthcoming in the Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, vol. 6, No. 2 (2010).

Even better, the article can downloaded right this very moment from Morison's SSRN page at

New York: Paterson Pardons

It is reported that Governor David A. Paterson has pardoned six individuals subject to deportation as a result of prior criminal convictions. Another individual is said to have "demonstrated extraordinary rehabilitation during her 20 years of incarceration." In a statement, Paterson said his pardons addressed "shortcomings in our Federal immigration laws." More specifically, the Governor said such laws "are often inflexible, arbitrarily applied, and excessively harsh, resulting in the deportation of individuals who have paid the price for their crimes and are now making positive contributions to our society." He added that his pardons were an "attempt" to "achieve fairness and justice for deserving individuals caught in the web of these laws." Said Paterson:

Huckabee on Pawlenty

HANNITY: Tim Pawlenty, now, has got to spend a lot of time dealing with this issue of a pardon. You had to deal with almost a similar issue.

HUCKABEE: Absolutely, and I will deal with it again. I was a governor 10.5 years. You deal with this stuff. Frankly, the thing that he's being hit with is very unfair. Tim Pawlenty made a tough decision. He didn't make a decision based on his ability to see into the future. He made the decision based on what he had. I'll be honest with you. The politically safe position is always to deny. Never, ever get involved in any type of clemency -- whether it's a pardon, a commutation, anything.

See story here.

Minnesota: Clemency, Pawlenty and Obama

This morning, the Editor of this blog, P.S. Ruckman, Jr., appeared on The Midmorning Show, with Kerri Miller, on Minnesota Public Radio.

The discussion focused on both state and federal pardons, including the recent clemency controversy in that state. Hear the full interview here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Obama Drops His First Pardons!

682 days into his presidency, Barack Obama, the slowest Democratic president in history to exercise the pardon power, has finally discovered the dark corners of Article II of the Constitution and, you know, the whole "checks and balances" thing. Yes, today, the President has granted 9 pardons. Why, even William Henry Harrison, who only served 32 days before having the poor taste to die, found a way to grant 3 pardons!

We expected at least a little action from Mr. Obama just about nowsince 1 out of every 2 pardons granted over the last 39 years has been granted in the month of December. The offenses addressed in the 9 most recent pardons are distributed across decades as follows:

Hawaii: 44 Pardons! reports that Gov. Linda Lingle "following the trend of at least her two immediate predecessors" (Ben Cayetano and John Waihee) has issued "the most pardons of her term during her final year of office." More specifically, the 55 pardons she has granted this year are "more than double any other year during her eight years as governor."

44 of her 132 total pardons to date (across two terms) were granted just last night. Lingle says she "carefully" considers each applicant's "individual's unique circumstances," and what they have done to "turn" their life "around." She also considers whether or not they have remained "crime-free" and/or they are "likely to reoffend." Lingle said in a statement last night.

The previous two governors granted a total of 204 and 115 respectively. They also served two terms apiece. See story here.

Pardons on Minnesota Public Radio

The Editor of this blog, P.S. Ruckman, Jr., will be a guest on The Midmorning Show, with Kerri Miller, on Minnesota Public Radio, Monday, December 6th, at 10:45 am. The discussion will focus on both state and federal pardons, including the recent clemency controversy in that state.

From a Reader:

Ginger Whitacre, the wife of Mark Whitacre (the subject of the recent Matt Damon movie "The Informant") visits this blog every now and then and is kind enough to check in.

She recently sent us a message which said (among other things):
... The clemency process is broken. And it has been for over a decade.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Texas: Pardon for DeLay?

It is reported that members of the State's Republican Executive Committee are considering a resolution which would call on Gov. Perry to pardon former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who was just convicted of conspiracy and money laundering. The Committee is said to consist of "two members from each of the state’s 31 Senate districts." The resolution reads as follows:
Whereas, then-Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle desperately tried to get five Travis County grand juries to indict then-U.S. House Republican Majority Leader, Tom Delay, on criminal political money laundering charges, based on Earle’s politically-biased beliefs and partisan interpretation of history,

Whereas, five Travis County grand juries that Earle went to for an indictment, refused to indict Tom Delay on Earle’s abusive charges,

Morison and Ruckman Talk Pardons

Readers can listen to today's appearance of the Editor of this blog, P.S. Ruckman, Jr., and former staff member of the Office of the Pardon Attorney, Sam Morison, on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU 88.5, public radio, Washington, D.C., by simply clicking here. Or, you may view the transcript of the program here.

New Jersey: 7,000 Fans Supporting Clemency

Brian Aitken was arrested in 2009 when the police found two locked and unloaded handguns in the trunk of his car. He was given a whopping seven-year prison sentence!  Now the Daily Caller reports:
... protesters across the state are organizing a push for an appeal for the court’s ruling. A “Free Brian Aitken” Facebook page has almost 7,000 fans, the website was built and a rally will be held Dec. 12, in Towns River, N.J. Aitken’s family is asking Chris Christie to grant clemency — gun control just might be the next test conservatives throw at the New Jersey governor. A pardon from Christie is far from assured, even if he does have fairly established, conservative credentials.
Christie has equivocated on the State's laws saying he supports "common sense laws that will allow people to protect themselves" (Who doesn't?), but he is also "very concerned about the safety of our police officers on the streets" and wants to "make sure that we don’t have an abundance of guns out there.” See full story here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Pitiful Daily Kos on Gov. Pawlenty

The Daily Kos is featuring a story entitled: "Pawlenty pardoned serial child molester so wife could open up day care center." As a headline, it is quite the eye-catcher. As a device for communicating factual information, however, it is an utter and complete failure.

In fact, Pawlenty and a State Board unanimously granted an "extraordinary pardon" to Jeremy Giefer who, in the eyes of the law, had completed a short (45-day) sentence and had been a law-abiding citizen for a period of time prescribed by law. That is to say, at the time of their (note the plural) decision, there was no evidence whatsoever, that anyone anywhere was even aware of even so much as a mere notion that Giefer was a "serial child molester" (shocking headline notwithstanding). Even today, in its enthusiasm to condemn Governor Pawlenty, the Daily Kos is, in its headline, convicting someone who is simply accused of crimes. Is this the new mindset of the political "left" in this country?

Minnesota: The Pardon Record

The Communications Director of the Minnesota State Board of Corrections has done us an extraordinary favor by providing data on the decisions of the State's Board of Pardons during the tenure of Governor Pawlenty. Minnesota State Law does not place the pardon power in the hands of any single individual. Instead, the power is given to the Board of Pardons (which includes the Governor) and the Board's decisions to grant clemency must be unanimous. Here are the data:

Dave Diamond on Morrison Pardon

Dave Diamond, of send us this note:

Professor, [I] have a newer, developing story to share with you, just passed on to me here. As you can see, it has come out that a witness has come forward and admitted perjury! This adds to the already growing list of technicalities and legal/constitutional flaws associated with this matter, as our basis for making the request to Governor Crist in the first place:

1. Witnesses lied
2. Unresolved appeal, case never abated- as was done in the Ken Lay/Enron trial
3. No one on the Morrison jury under the age of 40- Morrison was 26, hardly a jury of his peers
4. Jury found him not guilty on public intox, which he clearly was
5. Jury found him guilty on the indecent exposure, the one thing the State could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt
6. Not all of Morrison's accusers were called to testify, denying his right to face his accusers (all of them)
7. Presiding Judge refused to allow defense to present exonorating evidence

Obama: The Pardon "Watch List" Returns!

It's December! And one out of every two presidential pardons granted over the last four decades have been granted in this month alone. President Obama - the slowest Democratic president in history to exercise the pardon power - has now gone a whopping 680 days without granting a single pardon or commutation of sentence.

Do we think the president will exercise clemency this month? Yes, we do. The only question in our minds is whether or not Mr. Obama will wait more than 19 days, and pass George W. Bush as the slowest president of all time!

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