Wednesday, January 6, 2016

DC Mayor: Ready for Clemency?

A comprehensive examination of individual clemency warrants signed by presidents from 1789 to present reveal many violations which would might guess are not "federal" - stealing a chicken, joy riding, petite larceny, etc. This is just about always because such offenses are committed in the District of Columbia. Presidents cannot exercise the pardon power in relation to state offences, but they can pardon and commute sentences originating in DC.

It is reported that D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton wants to change that. She is proposing legislation granting the Mayor the power to grant clemency to local convicts. She calls her bill "an important home-rule advancement.” Others recognize such legislation "puts the District on the path closer to the larger goal of local autonomy and statehood" and a professor (Abbe Smith) at Georgetown calls it "an extremely important and long-overdue change.” Professor Smith claims “very few D.C. prisoners have ever received the benefit of clemency.”

According to the Washington Times - which consulted Prof. Smith, a Prof. Rothstein (also at Georgetown) and former U.S. Pardon Attorney Margaret Colgate Love:
According to Justice Department records, since 2000 only one person (Alfred Mack) convicted in the District has received clemency. 
Our own data show, however, that, in December of last year, President Obama commuted the sentence of one Jerome A. Jackson, who was convicted in DC.  See the Pardon Attorney's record here. Usually, the state of origin for clemency grants corresponds with the state where an offense took place - as in well over 90 percent of the time. The confusion, however, is purely the byproduct of the DOJ's poor dissemination of information. When we look at actual clemency warrants, which state where offenses were committed, we find the following in a preliminary look:

President
Pardons / Commutations from D.C.
Eisenhower
32
Kennedy
22
Johnson
31
Nixon
14
Ford
11
Carter
16
Reagan
8
Clinton
12
W. Bush
1

See full story here.

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