Showing posts with label Arkansas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arkansas. Show all posts

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Arkansas: 11 Pardons

Governor Mike Beebe has announced his intent to grant 11 pardons. He has also denied 10 requests. Each of the recipients has completed all jail time, fulfilled all parole-and-probationary requirements and paid all fines related to their sentences. Among the offenses addressed in the pardons are : Possession of Stolen Property, Embezzlement by Bailee, Possession of Controlled Substance, Robbery, Theft, Battery, Forgery, Possession of Marijuana, Domestic Battery, Breaking and Entering, Theft of Property, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Overdraft, Failure to Appear, Hot Check Violation, Theft of Property, Shoplifting. See story here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Arkansas: Long Shot

The Pine Bluff Commercial reports 45-year-old Jack Harold Jones is seeking clemency from the State's parole board. Jones was sentenced to death for rape and murder of a woman in 1995 and is scheduled to be executed next month. He had already received a life sentence for the rape and murder of another woman in 1991. Jones says he has been "dealing with" his "feelings of guilt" every day and claims he was under the influence of drugs at the time of commission of the second offense. See story here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Arkansas: 7 Pardons

Governor Mike Beebe's office has announced that he intends to grant seven pardons. Beebe rejected an an additional 12 clemency requests and took no action on 22 more. Each of the seven pardon was granted to individuals who completed all jail time, fulfilled all parole-and-probationary requirements and paid all fines related to their sentences. Among the offenses addressed are: Possession of Marijuana with Intent, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Maintaining Premises, Conspiracy to Possess Methamphetamine, Possession of Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Theft by Receiving, Battery, Domestic Battery, and Theft of Property. See complete story here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

No More Horton, Please. Thank You.

Today, former U.S. Pardon Attorney Margaret Colgate Love writes in the National Law Journal, "The American public is tired of hearing about Willie Horton." The observation is, of course, prompted by the media recent "reporting" of the Maurice Clemmons' case in Arkansas (see our discussion of the Top Ten Clemency Stories of 2009). Love rightly notes:

Although attacks on chief executives related to particular pardons are nothing new in our history, never before has mere anticipation of attack ­succeeded in shutting down the pardon power altogether. With a few notable exceptions, recently governors and presidents alike have let their constitutional power atrophy, fearful of being labeled soft on crime or of being held personally responsible for a heinous act that might even tenuously be linked to them. Pardons and commutations have become essentially unavailable in many states and in the federal system ...

Of course, the problem is exacerbated where parole has been abolished and records are not easily expunged. In sharp contrast to the politics of the day: almost all of American history! Love notes the pardon power has "played an integral operational part in the justice system" and "there is no time in memory when it has been more necessary to a just system."

Love notes polls and blog posts suggest "many" are convinced Huckabee acted reasonably in the Clemmons case and is encouraged by the "renewed sense of purpose" apparent in Ohio and Illinois. Programs of responsible pardoning are well worth emulation. See complete editorial 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, Mercy and Risk

Allan Hunt has written an excellent article articulating common-sense notions of leadership and decision making in general, and governors and clemency in particular. Says Hunt:

... Offering second chances is not without its risks. Then again, serving as a governor involves risks. All leadership does. As the old saying goes, every ship is safe as long as it is in the harbor, but that is not what ships are made for, is it? Some decisions prove prophetic and wise; some decisions ultimately fail, sometimes in very ugly ways. In his ten and a half years in office, Huckabee pardoned or commuted the sentences of 1,033 individuals ... His 1,033 second-chance decisions yielded three very high profile failures ... As horrible as these three situations became, one must admit that 3 failures in 1033 decisions proves to be a reasonably effective rate of success in using pardons and clemency.

See full editorial here.

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.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Newspaper Man Against Pardons

Gary Dickson is the publisher and editor of the Lake County (CA) Record-Bee. And today's issue features an editorial explaining why Mr. Dickson does not "believe" in "presidential pardons, governor commutations or early release programs." Dickson's commentary is pointed, but often without focus. It appears to inform, but actually misleads. He can at least be given credit for writing what many others probably think, but do not actually come out and say.

Dickson asks, rhetorically, "Whatever happened to 'You do the crime you do the time?'" and insists that "it doesn't work that way" in America any more because we "are soft toward criminals." Of course, the pithy rhetorical response to Dickson's question is that "Doing the time went out the window - and rightly so - back when we also tossed out the equally important notion that the punishment should fit the crime." He does not appear to be aware of the fact that mandatory minimum sentences, three-strikes laws and the like have been crippling the judicial systems' ability to tailor punishments to crimes. One has to also wonder how the massive prison population of this country squares with his "soft toward criminals" perspective.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Romney's Contribution to Clemency Ignorance

Mitt Romney is quoted as saying:
"My conclusion was if somebody has been convicted by a jury of their peers and they have been prosecuted and the police were able to get the evidence necessary to put them behind bars, why in the world would I step in and reverse that sentence?"
See story here. The quote was, of course, meant to be in relation to Gov. Huckabee and the Maurice Clemmons case. On the other hand, as it is now well-known, Huckabee did not "reverse" Clemmons' sentence (at least not in any normal sense of the English language).

No one knows if Romney would take the same position - of refusing to do anything - if 1) a judge recommended a modification of a sentence for a prisoner 2) a state parole board unanimously recommended the same modification and 3) the original sentencing judge did not oppose the recommendation. What would Romney do then, and why?

PardonPower is also interested in knowing if Romney is aware of DNA evidence and the manner in which, on occasion. it can render the decision making of juries and the police stupid, unjust.

USA Today on Huckabee

From USA Today:

If governors are blamed for any pardon or grant of clemency that ends in grief, they will simply get out of this business. They pretty much have, with Huckabee being the most notable exception. Governors should certainly be judicious. But there are reasons for pardons to continue — including reasons of public safety.

There simply are not enough prison beds to keep criminals behind bars as long as they should be there. Elected officials add to this problem every time they legislate mandatory minimum sentences, taking away the discretion of judges and prosecutors to evaluate which convicts should get shorter terms to free up space for those who should stay in prison longer. Governors and presidents still have unlimited discretion, but they use it at their own peril.

... The nation would be well served to have competent officials making thoughtful decisions. If they did, crime rates might actually go down as the worst criminals could stay in prison longer.

In this case, Huckabee exercised his professional judgment and made a decision he later regretted, as do we all. Other governors avoid these mistakes simply by not making these decisions. That may do wonders for their political prospects. But, on balance, it doesn't make the world any safer.
See complete editorial article here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

NY Mag on Huckabee

The following is an excerpt from New York Magazine:
... But, despite the blame being heaped upon Huckabee, Clemmons's clemency request was supported by a county circuit judge, and his parole was unanimously approved by a parole board. It also goes without saying that nobody would have supported letting him out of prison if they thought he would have a mental breakdown nine years later and commit murder. Furthermore, Clemmons has been back in jail repeatedly since his initial release, only to be set free again and again for various reasons unrelated to Huckabee ...
See entire article here.

More Clemency, Not Less

PardonPower shares the sentiment of columnist Debra J. Saunders who writes the following in this editorial:
... I am especially angry at Huckabee because I support the pardon system. With so many nonviolent, first-time drug offenders serving long federal sentences, there should be more -- not zero -- sentence commutations from the Obama White House.

Arkansas: OMG! They Are At It AGAIN !!!

The same very board that recommended that Mike Huckabee commute the sentence of cop killer Maurice Clemmons is now recommending (unanimously) that Gov. Mike Beebe make convicted drug dealer Billy Welch immediately eligible for parole with a commutation of sentence. Welch, a convicted drug dealing criminal, is serving two life sentences - which one of the board members considers "excessive?" In addition, he has only served 13 years of his two-life sentences (just two more than cop killer Maurice Clemmons). There is some other minor detail about Welch having cancer, but did we mention he was a criminal?

Don't these people read the papers ??? See article here

L.A. Times: Above the Fray. Bravo!

The L.A. Times features an editorial entitled "In Huckabee's Mike Defense." Among other things it notes:
Clemmons was 16 years old when he committed the string of robberies and burglaries that resulted in his 1989 conviction, and his sentence was astonishingly harsh for such a young perpetrator. A county circuit judge supported Clemmons' application for clemency a decade later. Huckabee made Clemmons immediately eligible for parole by cutting his sentence in half, but the decision to set him free was made by the parole board. It's unreasonable to expect Huckabee to have anticipated the events in Parkland nine years later.

See full editorial here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

CS Monitor: Hold Your Horses!

PardonPower recently noted that "reporting regarding Maurice Clemmons, the suspect in the fatal shooting of four police officers in Seattle, is providing excellent material for understanding the dangers of the anecdote ..."

Today, an editorial in the Christian Science Monitor echos our concern. The Monitor notes the "extraordinary nature" of the case is "reason for caution" because "high-profile crimes have a tendency to rank emotion over reason when it comes to the criminal justice system." The piece notes "there's little political downside to letting prisoner appeals pile up," but:
But Huckabee is also right. Redemption is possible - given the right cases, the right preparation, and adequate support once an inmate is back on the outside. And the justice system is not always just - from cookie-cutter mandatory minimum sentences to inadequate defense representation in capital cases.
The Monitor notes we are the "prison capital of the world" but shrinking budgets are forcing corrections officials reconsider prison reforms. Among other things, "they're reducing the sentences of nonviolent offenders, and diverting early nonviolent offenders into rehab programs. They're granting more parole - but focusing their monitoring on high-risk parolees." But
... the risk of a high-profile case such as Clemmons's is that it will bring a backlash leading to a wrong policy. That it will continue to discourage clemency, for instance, or that it will somehow slow the momentum toward reform.
PardonPower agrees with the Monitor that we should all be careful about "drawing broad conclusions from an exceptional case." See full editorial here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Clemmons' Commutation for Parole Eligibility

Recent reporting regarding Maurice Clemmons, the suspect in the fatal shooting of four police officers in Seattle, is providing excellent material for understanding the dangers of the anecdote and the short-term benefits of sloppy reporting. As most of us know by now, Clemmons once had a 95 to 108-year prison sentence commuted by then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.


At least part of the logic behind the decision making at the time was that Clemmons was sentenced for crimes that he had committed when he was only 16-years old and that he had served 11 years of his sentence - readers should certainly feel free to assess the quality of that logic on its face. For what it is worth, Abraham Lincoln used it regularly in his own clemency decisions. And, by the way, you read that right up top. The guy was sentenced to 95 to 108 years! What on earth did he do? Murder ten people and rob banks inbetween? Go ahead, cut through the awful "reporting" and find out the answer for yourself.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Arkansas: 10 Pardons

Governor Mike Beebe today announced his intent to grant 10 pardons. It is also reported that 34 clemency requests were denied by the Governor and not action was taken on 50 others. All 10 pardons are for applicants who have completed all jail time, fulfilled all parole-and-probationary requirements and paid all fines related to their sentences. Among the crimes of which they were convicted: Breaking and Entering, Battery, Theft of Property, Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Deliver, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Shoplifting, Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Deliver, Delivery of a Controlled Substance, Obstructing Governmental Operations, and Burglary. Sees story here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Arkansas: Recommendation

The Arkansas Parole Board has unanimously recommended parole for a 54-year-old Sampson Ellis who was convicted for rape and imprisoned in 1976. In his clemency application, Ellis claims that he is innocent and in prison because of his "ignorance of not knowing the law" and how to defend himself. It is also reported that the Board's recommendation noted Ellis "was in the prison’s Men’s Fraternity, participated in the Character First program, worked as a pre-release counselor and had completed his GED." See full story here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Arkansas: Recommendation

The Associated Press reports that the State's Parole Board has recommended clemency for Annie Varnell Ross, a 76-year-old woman who was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder. A similar recommendation was made in November of 2006. The request is opposed by a prosecutor although Ross's application claims that her victim was an "abusive" boyfriend. Ross, who was convicted in 1983 also feels as though "she has paid her debt to society." See story here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Arkansas: Rejection

The State Parole Board has rejected the clemency request of Deanna Bobo, a former teacher who was convicted on two counts of first-degree sexual assault of a 14-year old teenage student. It appears that Bobo, who is serving a 12-year sentence has admitted, for the first time that she had sex with the teenage boy. It is explained, however, that the activity occurred “after school hours and away from school grounds.” See story here.

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