Friday, June 3, 2011

The Exclusiveness of Executive Clemency

At the Huffington Post. Arthur Delaney has written a piece on the "exclusiveness of executive clemency." It begins by focusing on President Obama's recent pardon of Randy Eugene Dyer, who is now a minister in prisons. Says Dyer:
"I think it's a great honor. We know Jesus Christ forgave us, but sometimes society has a lot of difficulty forgiving people for the things they've done."
Indeed! To date, President Obama has granted 17 pardons and rejected almost 4,000 requests for pardons or commutations of sentence. The Editor of PardonPower is quoted as saying:
"In an era of booming federal prison populations, mandatory minimum sentences, three-strikes laws, the growth of the 'nanny state' and over-criminalization, the need for regular use of the pardon power is greater than ever. Amazingly, the most popular explanation for scarce use of the power -- that controversial pardons expend tremendous political capital -- is altogether flimsy. The typical pardon simply restores the civil rights of an unknown, average person who has committed an offense and served their time a long, long time ago."
Delaney explores several aspects of the handful of pardons that President Obama has granted and is essentially left asking, Why them? Why not so many many others as well? One recipient explained: "My lucky day, I guess." LIkewise, former U.S. Pardon Attorney Margaret Colgate love says, "I'm sure that those who were pardoned are all deserving, but it isn't clear to me what distinguishes them from many hundreds of others who applied and were turned down." See article here.


Anonymous said...

There are so many factors that are considered when you apply for a pardon. Unfortunately length of time is a major factor. In the article the person who had his application turned down was only eleven years ago. Its hard to say why so many others where turned down, but there must be something that goes against each of them. As I have said before on this great blog before, when you break the law things change for ever, it is up to the person to be able to stand up, accept the reasonability for there action and life a decent life. Pardons are not an entitlement program.

Another Anonymous said...

Agreed, pardons arent entitlements. However, a federal conviction is a life sentence of firearms disability, & loss of voting rights in many states. There are other life-long disabilities but, those are the major ones, IMO. Hope you weren't a hunter.

Many people who request a pardon would've already had those disabilities removed had their offense been a state conviction vs federal.

The problem with the federal clemency program is.... just as the article states, exclusiveness. Its unfortunate that the pardon attorney cannot issue/deny pardons as they see fit, without the political aspect complicating decisions for presidents.

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. said...

- Yes, Anon 1, you have to admit there is something odd about the suggestion that a person who steals plywood and nails from a military base and receives 6 months probation and a person who serves 20 years in prison for being a drug lord / king pin should both wait 20-5 years to have their rights restored simply because they both "messed up." Proportionality in punishment is a fundamental aspect of our basic notion of justice.

Anonymous said...

Another thing that isn't so well known is that three times the number of people who apply for a presidential pardon are references that are neighbors or co-workers. They give the president of the United States a notarized affidavit that neither the White House or the Justice Department seems to think is very important. That might be the only time they will ever speak to an FBI agent.

Another Anonymous said...

Hey Anon, it aint that those references aren't "important". It's that the petitioner gets them. Who in their right mind would add references of people of didnt have good things to say about them..? lol.

I think those references are more about the character of people you associate with than anything.

I think the people they (FBI) talk to, that DIDNT submit a "reference" hold more weight. I know they talk to an enormous amount of people in their background investigation. I received countless phone calls from people after, asking me why the FBI was questioning them about me. I bet they talked to 50 people or more.

My point.... the FBI does a very thorough investigation into a petitioners character. They know precisely who you are & how you are perceived in your community. It certainly goes well beyond your friends, colleagues, etc.

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. said...

EDITOR-Another Anon, that is marvelous anecdotal evidence, and welcomed news, in your own case. But I don't think it amounts to systematic empirical evidence that leads to the conclusion you are asserting - that every application is given this kind of serious attention. The rejection of thousands of applications, in recent years, might more logically lead one to suspect the general situation is much different.

Another Anonymous said...

Mr Ruckman,

Agreed. I do not believe every application gets that serious of consideration. I personally believe it is a scenario that is laid out in "steps", or "levels". What I mean is, (for lack of a better analogy)it is like a test. Once you "pass" one level, or part... you advance to the next level. Im betting that countless applications never made it to the FBI background investigation, and were or are rejected based on the circumstances of their case, or what the sentencing judge/prosecutor may have felt, for example.

Im sure plenty are denied based on later infractions, falsehoods in their applications, or lack of remorse, etc.

I base my opinion/s on my own experience only. About a month after I submitted my application, I received a letter from the US Pardon Atty, asking for clarification of some info. The FBI background investigation was conducted 14 months later (at least the public interviewing). FWIW, my application was submitted over 3yrs ago.

Again, my opinions are just that opinions. I only have my own scenario to go off of. Although, I can tell you, I am just a regular Joe. I have no high up political friends, etc. I submitted on my own app, without an attorney.

I am hopeful but, not holding my breath.

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
P.S. Ruckman, Jr. said...

EDITOR - Another ANON, again, you have some very interesting thoughts and hypotheses, but I am not aware of any empirical reason to buy into any of it. We know there is a process, sure. But what we also know is that the odds of anyone getting through it are about slim to none. In addition we know that, if they do make it through, it is very likely they committed a minor offense, a long time ago, and they are AARP material. In addition, we know that positive recommendations have been forwarded to this White House (that is, AFTER all of the little steps you are focused on, where applications may be crushed) and no one did anything. They just sat on them. This much we do know.

Another Anonymous said...

Mr Ruckman,

Unfortunately, you are right :( The whole, "slim to none" is a tough one to swallow. Those of us with pending apps, can only hope.

I sincerely hope that, regardless of what happens to me personally, that one day the system is changed. I would love to see a system where clemency can be granted by the Pardon Atty himself. At minimum, a clear process where federal clemency can be achieved (or not), without wondering what defines or determines it.

To leave the system as it is, with slim to no hope of removing life long disabilities is sad to say the least.

When my request is resolved, whether Im in the "slim" category, or the "none" category... I will share my story with you.

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