Friday, May 18, 2012

MSNBC: Eat the Turkey. Pardon O. Henry!

MSNBC reports Scott Henson, "a former investigative journalist and blogger on the criminal justice system" has launched a petition drive Thursday, with the aim of "delivering 10,000 signatures to President Barack Obama by Sept. 11, O. Henry’s birthday." Says Henson:
"This petition aims both to honor and exonerate a great American writer and to call attention to a withering and atrophied clemency process, one which no longer functions as robustly either as justice demands or America's constitutional framers intended" 
O. Henry, whose real name is William S. Porter, was convicted embezzling from an Austin bank, but historians say the conviction was questionable. Porter made things worse, however, by becoming a fugitive from justice. He turned himself in, eventually, when he heard that his wife was ill. There followed a five-year prison sentence.  Upon release, Porter moved to New York where he wrote, but "died of alcoholism at the age of 47, nearly penniless." The article notes:
The most prestigious award for American short stories is the PEN/O. Henry. There are museums that celebrate his legacy — and towns, schools and other buildings named after him, including the University of Texas-owned building that housed the court where Porter was convicted. This year, the 150th birthday of O. Henry’s birth, the U.S. Postal Service is rolling out a postage stamp featuring O. Henry’s face. When President Obama pardoned the Thanksgiving turkey in 2011, who did he quote? O. Henry. 
Henson says O. Henry's case "is an excellent opportunity for a presidential pardon, an executive power held by governors and U.S. presidents that is exercised far less than it was half a century ago." An O. Henry pardon might signal that President Obama understands (and values) "the true purpose of executive clemency powers in the justice system — not just as a symbol but also a remedy for both actual innocence and unfortunate guilt,' (referring to an expression from the Federalist Papers) one that provides a healing salve even for century-old wounds," says a letter accompanying the petition to Obama."

Obama has so far been among the stingiest American presidents in exercising the powers of clemency, but Henson says that this is merely "the continuation of a trend among modern presidents."  See story here.

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