Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Iowa: Branstad Asleep at the Wheel

Erin Murphy of the Sioux City Journal has written a great piece on Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who has, on average, granted "fewer pardons than any Iowa governor dating to the late-1940s." Murphy notes the governor has received nearly 400 requests for pardons since 2011, but approved only 26:
Branstad is closer to the middle of that pack for granting commutations, or reduced sentences, since 2011. However, remove the roughly three dozen commutations that were the direct result of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that negated lifetime sentences for juveniles, and Branstad once again drops to the fewest granted since 1949. 
Branstad says that he has always "tried to be very thoughtful and very judicious in making these decisions" - as if anyone, anywhere is asking him to be otherwise. More notably, he believes the power to pardon should be used sparingly because it is "an extraordinary power" (language found nowhere in the Iowa State Constitution).
Party Comm Pardons Total Months
Terry Branstad (2011-2017) R 39 26 65 75
Chet Culver (2007-2011) D 0 95 95 48
Tom Vilsack (1999-2007) D 7 97 104 96
Terry Branstad (1983-1999) R 2 112 114 192
Robert Ray (1969-1983) R 27 163 190 168
Harold Hughes (1963-1969) D 39 44 83 72
Norman A. Erbe (1961-1963) R 11 11 22 24
Herschel C. Loveless (1957-1961) D 46 19 65 48
Leo Hoegh (1955-1957) R 30 12 42 24
Leo Elthon (1954-1955) R 17 1 18 2
William S. Beardsley (1949-1954) R 26 26 52 70

More to the point, Robert Rigg, a Drake University law school professor, says,“Most governors keep in mind they’re running for re-election almost always" and the worst thing they can do is be "called soft on crime.” So, more tellingly, Branstad says, "The good news is we’ve not had the tragedies that have occurred in some other states where governors haven’t been as careful or judicious and people that they pardoned have then committed other serious crimes.”

However, the Editor of this blog says:
“When I see a pardon number that low, I just don’t get why that is not in the hundreds. Because, again, the political risks there are just about zero ...If you look into those high-profile things, they’re almost always about commutations (not pardons). The idea that there is some risk to restoring rights is just lunacy.” 
See full story here.

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