|The Scottsboro Nine|
More typically, posthumous pardons are truisms (reinforcing already well-accepted points/notions) or merely making those who grant them feel better about themselves and - more importantly - endearing them to potential blocs of voters who are, evidently quite easily impressed. Why, if politicians could feel the same passion about real pardons - pardons for deserving people, who are actually alive, and suffering - the world would be a much, much better place. Once upon a time, the Federalist papers argued there should be "easy access" to such forgiveness. That hasn't really worked out too well.
But, again, there is potential for good in pardoning dead people. Indeed, if such acts amount to all of the courage that a President or Governor can muster, then so be it. If the only regard for the mercy Alexander Hamilton argued was absolutely necessary in any system of justice is to look favorably upon someone who has been dead for a half century, or two, then so be it. It is a far far better thing to feign relevance in a system of separation of powers and checks and balances than to make no effort at all.
Similarly, the State legislature's "exoneration" of the Scottsboro boys follows an Act (real law) which established general procedures for the consideration of posthumous pardons by the State's Board of Pardons and Parole - again, the people who really have the pardon power in the State but, admittedly, no constituents to hypnotize. Or, if you would prefer language directly from the governor's office:
Dr. Ruckman: Alabama law prohibits any Governor from granting a pardon or paroling a convicted person in this state. The Alabama Board of Pardons is the sole authority on such and answers only to the Alabama State Legislature. The Governor’s clemency powers extend only to death row inmates awaiting execution ... Denise Randall,Office of Governor Robert Bentley (Constituent Services Senior Specialist)In sum, a body with no authority to pardon resolved to exonerate, and asked the Governor (who also has no authority to pardon) to sign on. The resulting headline: "Governor Pardons Scottsboro Boys." The underlying text: "Your Alabama legislator encouraged him to do so. Don't forget it dear voter!" The real world result: The boys are still not pardoned. The educational benefit of the entire affair: ...