Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Clemmons. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Clemmons. Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bernard Goldberg's Unmerciful Ignorance

In this wildly unimpressive piece, Bernard Goldberg tries his hand at analysis of the clemency power which the Federalist Papers deemed so important to our system of criminal justice. Goldberg is no clemency expert, or even a student of the topic. He just knows what he reads in the newspapers, when freakish and rare "pardon scandals" attract the attention of everyone else. Imagine the quality that is about to follow!

First, Goldberg starts a ripping on Haley Barbour - thanks, Haley, you have done the pardon power so much good! Of course, this blog has done quite a bit of Haley Barbour ripping - but always at the expense of Haley Barbour, never at the expense of the pardon power. Golberg says "when Governor Haley Barbour pardoned a number of murderers on his last day in office, he was acting in the proud tradition of several other political hacks."

The impressive list that follows? Four names. Bill Clinton, Michael Dukakis, Mike Huckabee and George Ryan. Yep, no mention of Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush or Reagan. Go figure.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pardons: The Unimportant Topic that Makes / Breaks Candidates

We often receive e-mails and comments which essentially make the same point: Who cares about pardons? There are so many other important things about which to be concerned. Why should anyone bother so much about the circumstances of criminals? 

Presidential election campaigns must be very odd things for persons of this mindset to behold. Consider the last go-round, in 2008:

Hillary Clinton was asked about her husband's questionable pardons when it was observed that several recipients were making donations to her campaign. When she badgered Barack Obama about his relationship with Bill Ayers, in a Nationally televised debate, Obama bluntly reminded Mrs. Clinton that her husband pardoned several of Ayers' associates in the Weather Underground. Obama was asked whether or not he would consider a pardon for Tony Rezko. Rudolph Giuliani was asked if he would pardon Bernard Kerik. Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was asked if she would pardon Senator Ted Stevens. Vice presidential candidate Joe Biden said he was not to keen on the idea of a pardon for Jonathan Pollard. Every Republican candidate was asked, during the debates, how they felt about a potential pardon for Scooter Libby. And every Democratic candidate had something to say about the eventual commutation of sentence he received from George W. Bush. Mitt Romney downright bragged about the fact that he never granted pardons. Mike Huckabee was roundly criticized for granting too many.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

L.A. Times on the "No Pardon President"

The L.A. Times features an editorial which discribes President Obama's clemency program, or "non-clemency" program, a "disappointment." Noting that there is no "shortage" of applicants, the Times complains that it is "hard to believe" that none are deserving of mercy. We could not agree more.

But the Times also argues that the public "associates" the pardon power with Ford's pardon of Richard M. Nixon, Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich or Bush's commutation for Scooter Libby. To the extent that this is true, however, it is largely the fault of the media, which over consistently over-emphasizes "controversial" cases and fails to balance such reporting with an emphasis on the typical presidential pardon (an act which merely restores the civil rights of individuals who have served their time and have become productive, law-abiding members of society).

In addition, there are those many reporters who insist on the cheap thrill by misrepresenting clemency decisions in order to fabricate controversy (e.g., by focusing entirely on criticisms of clemency decisions and failing to report the justifications for such decisions, by claiming pardons are springing hardened criminals from prisons and tossing them into the streets, etc.). Witness the very sorry media coverage of Mike Huckabee's decision making re Maurice Clemmons!

In sum, we hope the president changes. But we also hope that members of the news media will change as well. See Times editorial here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Arkansas: After the Fact Genius!

Max Brantley at the Arkansas Times' "Arkansas Blog" is still still trying to make political hay out of the Maurice Clemmons incident. He makes a seemingly great point : "But you'd search without success for Clinton clemency beneficiaries who went on to murder multiple times."

But, of course, he really shoots off the foot of his own argument. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find any example of someone who was pardoned who "went on to murder multiple time" state or federal, anywhere in American history. That is exactly the point. The episode was a freakish and rare event.

That is exactly why we should all reject after-the fact-commentary on this matter masquerading as legitimate criticism and/or analysis. Anyone acting like they would have clearly seen what no one else saw deserves nothing but scorn and rebuke. Brantley is, evidently, no smarter than Huckabee. After all, he (Brantley) made no predictions about the murders. Nor did anyone else. That's right, not one person. I guess if Huckabee is an idiot, then we all are and Brantley should man up and stand in line with the rest of the idiots. See Brantley's comments here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Delware: Recommendation

The Dover Post reports that the State's Board of Pardons has recommended (in a split vote) that the life sentence of 64-year old Judith A. McBride be commuted to life with the possibility of parole. McBride was convicted of conspiracy to commit the murder of her estranged husband, who was found in a bathtub stabbed 27 times (10 times in the face). If you are the kind of person who is still stumbling and bumbling over the basic facts in the Maurice Clemmons case, or you have the perverted sense of justice that Jan Brewer displays, you need not read further. This story will be much, much more than you are likely to be able to handle.

McBride claimed she had been the victim of domestic abuse during her two-year marriage. But the board also noted that, since her 1982 conviction, at least five others had been convicted in Delaware of a similar crime but received lesser sentences "due to extenuating circumstances." In 1993, then-Attorney General Charles Oberly was quoted as saying, “If [McBride’s] case came in today, we may very well let her plead guilty to manslaughter or murder second-degree, and she’d be out of here by now.” More recently, a Chief Deputy Attorney General has said "the case would have been treated differently today insofar as today it would be subject to a capital case review process before a determination was made to seek capital sentencing,” he wrote." See story here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jan Brewer's "Personal" Justice: A Real Creature Feature

Occasionally (some say not enough, others say all too often), an execution takes place in the United States. These episodes are often accompanied by a flurry of last-minute appeals to courts, clemency boards and/or governors. When it is clear that the final call will be made by the governor, one can just about always expect some kind of formal statement, explaining the decision to allow the process to go forward without interruption.

These public statements are the byproduct of external and internal forces. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans favor the death penalty. Governors are certainly aware of this. So, however grim the circumstances, most of them probably feel comfortable issuing what they know will be widely publicized statements which tap into the potentially beneficial stream of majoritarian politics.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Washington: Clemency Process On Hold

Jonathan Martin of the Seattle Times has written a somewhat sweeping (and occasionally rambling) article on the use of clemency in the states. It begins by noting Governor Chris Gregoire has granted an "extremely rare" pardon - to a man who was deported after being advised that a guilty plea would result in no punishment at all. Indeed, Martin notes Gregoire had granted clemency 26 times in 53 months, but shut down clemency activity since the media's shoddy treatment of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (in the Maurice Clemmons case). Meanwhile, the states Clemency and Pardons Board has unanimously recommended clemency in at least 14 cases!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Arizona: Clemency Mystery

Last August (that is nine months ago), the State's five member Board of Executive Clemency unanimously recommended that 75 year old Bill Macumber be released from prison because there was "substantial doubt" as to his guilt. No, not any of the wishy-washy "rehabilitation" stuff. The man is thought to be innocent!

Macumber was charged with a double homicide in 1974. The murders actually took place in 1962. Governor Jan Brewer (R), on the other hand, denied Macumber's application for clemency without explanation three months after the Board's unanimous recommendation and, it appears, is stonewalling any attempt by anyone to understand why. As it is reported:

Friday, December 18, 2009

Speaking of Bizarre Pardons!

Over at Slate, Radley Balko argues it is high time that the recent round of scrutiny directed toward Mike Huckabee (for the commutation of sentence granted to Maurice Clemmons) be shifted toward "one of Huckabee's possible competitors for the [2012 GOP presidential] nomination, Haley Barbour" (Governor of Mississippi). What follows is a wildly entertaining description of Barbour's "bizarre" pardon record.

In the last two years, Barbour has "pardoned, granted clemency to, or suspended the sentences" of at least five convicted murderers "four of whom killed their wives or girlfriends" and he has pardoned a man "convicted and sentenced to life for robbing and murdering an elderly man." The common denominator among them: participation in a program that allowed them to do odd jobs around the Governor's mansion. [Shotgun-totting deputy wearing permanent frown and dark sun glasses enter stage right]. At the same time, Balko reports, Barbour has been downright peculiar in his failure to use the pardon power to further exonerate individuals who have been declared innocent via DNA testing. [Sweaty prisoner in dirty "wife beater" carrying pot full of hard boiled eggs enter stage right]

What does it all mean? Balko argues governors too often "bestow redemption on guilty people who claim that they're rehabilitated" and this "converts the pardon from a check on an imperfect system to an almost religious capacity for conferring forgiveness, for reasons often more personal than related to public policy."And that is why "Barbour is handing out mercy to killers while paying no heed to the staggeringly flawed system operating right under his nose." Indeed, one might call it "a failure to communicate."

See entire article here

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Huckabee Explains

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has written a piece for the Washington Post explaining his decision making in the Maurice Clemmons case. See the entire piece here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Leadership v. Gutless, Unjust, Opportunism

Re former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's decision to make Maurice Clemmons eligible for parole via a commutation of sentence, Errol Louis writes:

Huckabee could have done the easy, politically safe thing by letting ludicrously heavy sentences stand. Instead, he opted to bring a measure of proportionality, compassion and common sense to a justice system that needs more of it.

and adds:
Huckabee made a tough decision that many others would have ducked. That's not a liability, it's leadership.
See full editorial here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Washington: Racing to Irrationality

Now that the media have had a week to misrepresent the commutation of sentence that Mike Huckabee granted almost ten years ago to Maurice Clemmons, we have arrived at assessment stage of the story. Many agree that Huckabee's presidential aspirations are toast. But others are noting something that would be outright hilarious were the matter not so serious. That's right, some are speculating that it may become even more difficult for individuals to get pardons and commutations of sentence! Yes, the Huckabee pardon backlash may lead us to a tremendous crackdown on the exercise of clemency!

Let's see, Barack Obama hasn't granted a single pardon or commutation of sentence in 317 days as president (making him the 5th slowest president of all time). How shall Mr. Obama crack down on clemency? Revoke pardons granted by his predecessors?

We can't blame Washington governor Chris Gregorie for taking a hard line position on clemency, for PR purposes. Gregorie has received only 215 requests for clemency in the five years she has been in office. But, now, we must be all greatly concerned to learn that she, somehow, granted pardons to 26 convicted criminals! We do not know the nature or impact of those 26 decisions, but, if the media's coverage of the Huckabee affair has taught us anything, it is that none of that really matters.

In her favor, Gregoire turned down an board supported clemency application for a convicted murderer who committed the crime. when he was 13. But she must now realize, under the new Huckabee rules, that she is responsible for the actions of the 26 convicted criminals that she pardoned for at least 4-5 more years.

See story here.

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