Wednesday, January 25, 2017

O. Henry Petition Deep-Sixed

We wanted to inform our readers re the status of our recent petition for the posthumous pardon of O. Henry. We filed the petition on the advice of the former U.S. Pardon Attorney, Robert Zauzmer. We have done this twice before. Once, a former Pardon Attorney rejected it outright. The second time, the same Pardon Attorney did not even respond to the request.

In our recent (third) attempt, we asked the U.S. Pardon Attorney to forward the petition (or the standard summary of its contents) to the President without any formal recommendation. Which is to say, we wanted to avoid the standard default - "no" - of that Office. They are experts in saying it, so many ways. While petitions are not normally forwarded in this manner, such a thing would not have been unprecedented. Not even close.

As we saw it, we would get what we wanted - the petition would be seen by the President). The pardons office should have also been pleased - it could save its precious times, time that it clearly wanted to spend on almost exclusively on commutations of sentence for a single category of offenders. In sum, our request made hard sense. Mr. Zauzmer assured us the O. Henry petition  (or standard summary) would make it before "the President's eyes."

We were thrilled.

What we have since learned is that the former Pardon Attorney took it upon himself to re-litigate the issue of whether or not a president could / should be able to grant posthumous pardons. Bill Clinton granted the first (to Henry Flipper, in 1999). George W. Bush granted the second (to Charlie Winters in 2008). But maybe that was all by mistake. So, the Pardon Attorney studied the question himself (with the assistance of materials that we sent to him, to expedite his decision making). He then forwarded materials related to the issue (and, evidently, a recommendation memo) to White House staff. The decision was then made - between them - that no posthumous pardons would be entertained by President Obama. No O. Henry. No Jack Johnson. No Marcus Garvey. Etc. Etc. Any such applications were ignored as a matter of policy. They were not rejected on the merits.

We hope that the new Pardon Attorney manages that office more openly, honestly and with a greater eye toward precedent, efficiency and fairness, as opposed to clumsy PR ("making history," "records," etc.). Regardless, we will file another petition. And, we will once again ask that the Office of the Pardon Attorney - aka, the House of "No" - will, somehow, allow it to escape the clutches of the automatons.

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