Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gov. T. Roosevelt: By the Numbers

Theodore Roosevelt granted 94 acts of clemency as Governor of New York (January 1, 1899 to December 31, 1900). 51 were granted in 1899 and 43 were granted in 1900. The classifications of these acts is as follows:

69 commutations of sentence
21 pardons
 3 respites
 2 conditional commutations of sentence

The offense addressed in these acts ranged from being a being a tramp, stealing a bicycle and maiming to grand larceny and murder. On average, clemency was granted 4 years after sentencing (the average sentence being 6.3 years in length.

The Annual Statement of the Governor provides no less than 287 separate, distinct explanations for these 94 acts. A few are peculiar (death of a father, ill brother, rescued a prison officer from attack, saved a child in a fire, etc.), but almost all of them fit comfortably in a categorization scheme of 33 dimensions.

The most common justifications referenced the recommendations of prosecuting attorneys (44) and judges (40). In 32 instances, Roosevelt considered the offense minor / technical or judged the recipient less culpable. In 28 instances, Roosevelt noted the recipient had served a considerable portion of his/her sentence, or had served enough time given the nature of the offense.

While these explanations would be generally expected, the several which follow in order say much more about Roosevelt himself and the circumstances of the times. A good reputation before the offense was cited in 19 instances. Roosevelt complained about the excessive nature of sentences in 15 instances. He worried about the possible innocence in 14 others.

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