Sunday, January 20, 2013

Washington: 6 Pardons 4 Commutations of Sentence

Johnny Ray Stewart, was serving a "life" term under Washington's “three strikes” law. But, just before she left office, Gov. Chris Gregoire commuted Stewart's sentence. In large part, the commutation was based on the fact that Stewart "blew the whistle" on one Steven Sherer, a fellow prison inmate who was plotting to kill Marilyn Brennemana, King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor. At the time, Sherer was serving a 60-year sentence for killing his wife!

The commutation was one of 4 granted by the governor, along with 6 pardons. See story here and here.

Of course, since these decisions were made at the last-minute, it would appear to be a good time to consider the Governor's overall record on clemency. At present, we are finding it difficult to locate aggregate statistics. According to a July 2007 report:
Since taking office in January 2005, Gov. Gregoire has rejected the board's recommendation for clemency seven times, according to a Seattle Weekly review of clemency records. That's out of 19 board recommendations on which she's taken action. By contrast, her predecessor, Gary Locke, spurned the board's advice just nine times over the course of eight years in office, during which he acted on more than 70 board recommendations.
According to this report in June of 2010:
Gov. Mike Lowry from 1993 to 1997 commuted nine sentences — six for seriously ill or dying inmates — and pardoned one woman. Gov. Gary Locke, the most active recent governor, granted 66 pardons and commutations from 1997 to 2005. More than half were granted after Locke decided he would not run for re-election in mid-2003. Gregoire's 26 acts of clemency mostly have been granted to people who have lived crime-free for years and had difficulty getting a professional license.
We will look for additional data next week.

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