Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jin Fuey Moy: The President Responds

In the first post in this series (here), we explained the background of the conviction of Jin Fuey Moy and Willie Martin for violation of the Act to Provide for the Registration of, with Collectors of Internal Revenue, and to Impose a Special Tax Upon, All Persons Who Produce, Import, Manufacture, Compound, Deal in, Dispense, Sell, Distribute, or Give Away Opium or Cocoa Leaves, Their Salts, Derivatives, or Preparations, and for Other Purposes. In the second post (here), we explained how the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Martin's conviction on the premise that the Act did not intend to punish mere possession of the drugs in question - United States v. Jin Fuey Moy 241 U.S. 394 (1916).

The Court's opinion was announced on June 5th. That happened to be the same day that, in Ohio, George Karch and Louis Huff were both sentenced to 13 months in prison for mere possession of morphine.  But at least 50 other indiviuals had already been sent to prison for the same offense. And almost every single one of them was still behind bars. What was to happen to them?

Before the month was up President Wilson pardoned three individuals serving combined sentences of 66 months for possession of morphine. Because all three men were still in prison at the time of the pardon, almost 35 combined years of sentences were commuted by Wilson and the civil rights of all three men were, simultaneously, also restored.

12 similar pardons followed in July, and 23 more were granted in August. Almost 4 years of Thomas Flint's sentence were commuted. Victor Sprague was pardoned a mere 38 days after sentencing. William Reilly waited 1,135 days. Before it was over, sentences of 27, 30, 36 and 48 months were commuted by the President. Wilson eventually commuted more than three decades of prison sentences handed down previous to the Court's ruling in Jin Fuey Moy. Which is to say, the pardon power was employed exactly as the Founding Fathers had intended it to be employed. President Obama could stand to learn more about the matter!

1 comment:

beth said...

Very interesting commentary. I always enjoy your history lessons.
Thanks Beth

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