Monday, October 24, 2011

Kentucky: Remember Those Partial Pardons?

In Kentucky's race for lieutenant governor, former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson is exchanging punches with Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer and independent Dea Riley. The Courier Journal provides this commentary from a recent television debate:
On criminal justice issues, Abramson rebutted an television advertisement that claims that Beshear has pardoned murderers and rapists. The commercial, aired by a group supporting [Farmer], then says he issued "partial pardons."

Abramson said that Beshear has not granted any pardons but he acknowledged that he has restored voting and other civil rights for people who have been convicted of violent crimes after they completed their sentences — but only after that restoration of rights was agreed to by a prosecutor. Unlike a full pardon, someone who has simply had rights restored, still has a criminal record.

Riley, however, argued that Abramson was making a distinction when there was none.
Thus, the partial pardons of 2008 are back on the table (see PowerPower post here). Section 77 of the Kentucky State Constitution reads:
[The Executive] shall have power to remit fines and forfeitures, commute sentences, grant reprieves and pardons, except in case of impeachment, and he shall file with each application therefor a statement of the reasons for his decision thereon, which application and statement shall always be open to public inspection. In cases of treason, he shall have power to grant reprieves until the end of the next session of the General Assembly, in which the power of pardoning shall be vested; but he shall have no power to remit the fees of the Clerk, Sheriff or Commonwealth's Attorney in penal or criminal cases.
However, a leading precedent Cheatham v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 131 S.W.3d 349 (Ky. Ct. App. 2004) states:
[A] pardon can be full (absolute), conditional, or partial. A full pardon restores an offender's civil rights without disqualification. A conditional pardon [is one that] does not become effective until the wrongdoer satisfies a prerequisite or that will be revoked upon the occurrence or some specified act. Finally, a partial pardon exonerates the offender from some but not all of the punishment or legal consequences of a crime. In Kentucky, the constitutional power to pardon encompasses the power to issue conditional pardons. This is also true of the power to issue partial pardons.
Which is to say, the courts have indeed made a distinction where candidate Riley sees none. Nonetheless, a well-articulated and legitimate potential concern could emerge on this front. See full story here.

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