Saturday, February 27, 2016

Buckley on Hearst, and Pardoning

Here are some excerpts from a column written for William F. Buckley on June 20, 1978: 

Why doesn't President Carter pardon Patty Hearst? Presumably because he is afraid to do so, and here is one of the ignobilities of our time concerning which not much is being said. Patricia Hearst is in jail because she is a member of a wealthy and conspicuous family whose progenitor left an impression of arrogance and wealth financed by sensationalism.

 … I do not doubt that the old man's memory figures in the disposition of Patty Hearst. It is correct that she was tried and found guilty by a jury. There is no denying that she was guilty. She did indeed help to rob a bank, associating her - self with a band of guerillas whose clutch on fantasy is suggested by the name they gave their organization: the Symbionese Liberation Army.

 … It is painful to recall what was done to Particia Hearst. Not yet 20, she was treated as severely as a prisoner of war in the worst camps of Japan, North Vietnam, or Russia -- with the distinctive loneliness of being one of a kind. Week after week after week in a closet, starved, ravished, choking in the fumes of her own offal. If she had emerged from the experience as mad as the maddest inmate of the maddest madhouse, one cannot believe there would have been anything but surprise and sorrow. What she did was rob banks. If her captors had turned her in the direction of opening the cages of zoos, or burning the houses of poets, or hijacking dirigibles, that is what she'd have done. She was given a sentence of seven years in jail, and I defy the most lavishly fed computer in the country to come up with the name of anyone with experiences remotely like hers, punished by eight months in jail, let alone eighty months.

The institution of clemency was established for such difficult cases. The authority to exercise it rests with the President. Jimmy Carter is a man of unusual intellectual powers, much taken with the shipwrecks in our vale of tears. If he cannot see the transcendent injustice here, it is because he affects not to see it. His acuity is easily sufficient for the enterprise, and he would enhance that reputation for justice he has sought to serve by acting to end the prolonged torment of this girl.

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